Kenya, Graft: ODM-PNU battle headed to Parliament

Parliament reopens on Tuesday against a backdrop of unease among Grand Coalition Government partners, the looming food crisis and high-level corruption that is back in full swing.

Although the graft incidents are widespread, The Standard On Saturday has established some Cabinet ministers are among those who could be under the spotlight because their dockets are either embroiled in corruption claims or appear to be cast in bad light.

The President's announcement yesterday that some fellows and individuals' would soon face court over their corrupt ways is also bound to be hair-raising warning to politicians.

Convening just a day after the planned teachers' strike, set to begin on Monday, Parliament will also have to grapple with possible paralysis of learning institutions and the food crisis.

But nothing is expected to sap the energy of Parliament than internal schisms in the Grand Coalition Government. It is the week that could herald another heady moment for President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, just days after they crafted a 12-member team to manage the coalition's spiralling crises and mollify internal tensions and distrust.

The Public Accounts Committee Chairman Bonny Khalwale yesterday expressed shock at the magnitude of graft in Government. However, he could not comment on the details or point fingers since his committee was meeting to study the cases

Inappropriate conduct

"We are going to prepare a full report on this worrying trend and I do not want to be seen to be politicking over this serious matter. But I can assure you the matter is grave and these instances could go down with many, including even the Government itself," he told The Standard On Saturday.

Accusations and counter-accusations over which side is to blame in the graft claims are bound to dominate debate in the first week.

Underlying the debate would be the Coalition's agreement that anyone implicated in shady deals or inappropriate conduct would have to be forced to step aside until they are cleared. Members could exploit this to get at those they perceive as undermining their parties or frustrating their progression and personal interests.

It does not help matters that in both sides have emerged influential politicians who are staking out for the presidency in 2012. On the ODM side there are Raila and his deputies Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr William Ruto. On the PNU side are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, Justice Minister Martha Karua, Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula and Information Minister Samuel Poghisio.

Poghisio and Saitoti will be under the spotlight since they are linked to the contentious new media law that allows the Government to raid newsrooms, seize broadcast equipment and shut them down. Poghisio is also under focus over false mileage claims accusations.

Two State corporations rocked by graft allegations this week fall under the Tourism and Agriculture dockets, which are led by ministers appointed from the Orange Democratic Party pool — Mr Najib Balala and Mr William Ruto respectively.

The National Cereal and Produce Board, which is under fire over the Sh150 million maize disappearance' scandals, falls under Ruto's docket. The Kenya Tourism Board, whose MD was sent home over irregular payments to two private companies, falls under Balala's ministry.

Global Fund

Mr Kiraitu Murungi's Energy ministry manages the Kenya Pipeline Corporation, whose managing director was sent packing over Sh7.2 billion oil supply scandal.

The others who could be on the radar are Labour Minister John Munyes over the management circus and confusing changes announced yesterday at the National Social Security Fund. Water Minister Charity Ngilu's name could surface because of the controversy over the Global Fund while she was the Health minister.

She was in charge during the controversy over the misappropriation of Sh13 billion donor funds to fight HIV/Aids. Two ministers later contradicted each other on the fate of the money, with one saying it was a rip-off while the other termed it a scandal that never was.

Saitoti could also be hard put to explain the mystery surrounding the ownership of military ware stuck in the Ukranian ship at the Gulf of Eden. Though he insists the deadly cargo belongs to Kenya, it has been claimed that it belongs to the government of Southern Sudan.

The pattern emerged last week where MPs spiced attack on shady deals with politics, with Karua saying the unity government was crafted fast and there was no time to vet incoming members. ODM responded with the claim that PNU had a political agenda in its mode of attack of its members.

Coming in the week following ODM's demand for a renegotiation of the power-sharing deal, along with the demand for removal the Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura or transfer of his office to the Prime Minister's, Parliament is the place to watch.

Already ODM has promised a Motion on what they perceive as meddling' in the affairs of the PM by Muthaura, who PNU argues acts on the delegated powers of the President, to whom he reports.

ODM MPs also demanded that the Vice President's role as the Leader of Government Business in Parliament be given the PM so as to remove what they see as erosion and dilution of the PM's constitutionally guaranteed role of supervising and coordinating' affairs of Government ministries.

Depending on how Kibaki and Raila handle the silent storm raging behind their backs, the ramification of a confrontation and blame over whose feet the corruption buck stops, is bound to be felt in the way Parliament will transact the constitutional review agenda, particularly with regard to implementation of the Waki and Kriegler reports.

Last month Munyes told Parliament the Government would undertake a forensic audit after it emerged NSSF stood to lose Sh1.4 billion in shady dealings. The minister, who fired the entire NSSF board, was enraged that members opted to enter into a business transaction with Discount Securities Ltd without his approval. But yesterday he reinstated the Managing Trustee, James Akoya, who had been sent home.

Dropping names

Sources intimated Uhuru and Cabinet ministers Prof Sam Ongeri and Chirau Mwakwere could also find themselves under persistent attack. Uhuru was sucked into a scandal involving the nomination of councilors while still holding the Local Government docket early last year. Several MPs are unhappy with him for allegedly dropping names proposed by political parties.

Ongeri is not only grappling with the prospect of teachers strike but also serious examination result mess that saw the recall of results for around 4,000 candidates following a computer error. – The Standard

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