Kenya: MPs bay for Uhuru's blood over Sh9.2b error'

uhuru_kenyatta.jpg Uhuru Kenyatta By Standard on Sunday Team
Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta is under attack after admitting the extra Sh9.2 billion he defended in his Supplementary Estimate was a typing' or computer' error.

There were calls to President Kibaki to replace Uhuru and order a forensic audit of the 2008-2009 Budget to rule out foul play.

Others asked Uhuru to apologise and to give a detailed explanation on
the source of the conflicting figures, and explain why he defended it.

There were also indications Tuesday, when the House will revisit the
matter, could make Uhuru hot on the colour as his errors' began to
take on a political face.

The Deputy Prime Minister had last week said there was no fraud
intended but still vouched for his figures and disparaged Imenti
Central MP Gitobu Imanyara who drew the attention of the House to the
discrepancies. This forced Speaker Kenneth Marende to refer the matter
to the joint House Finance and Budget committees.

A section of Rift Valley MPs demanded an explanation from Uhuru with
Nominated MP Musa Sirma saying, "There was something fishy".

Sirma, however, said the minister should not be judged harshly as he
has admitted there was a mistake. The MP said Parliament should play a
bigger role in interrogating the Budget to ensure there was no fraud.

"The anomaly will have gone without being noticed were it not for MPs," said Sirma.

Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto said if officials in Treasury misled him,
Uhuru should let the technocrats carry their own crosses. The MP said
the admission by the minister was shocking and wondered how many such
mistakes occur at the Treasury.

Maragwa MP Elias Mbau, who is a member of the Budget Committee
investigating the anomalies, said Treasury officials questioned by MPs
had conceded the figures did not add up.

Mbau said it was unfortunate Uhuru had unequivocally said in Parliament the figures were correct without crosschecking.

"He is telling Kenyans about computer errors rather belatedly when the
damage has been done. It is now upon him to apologise for the mess,"
Mbau said.

He added: "The Budget and the Finance committees have met Treasury
officials who have given damning accounts of the estimates. So the
minister should not have rubbished the concerns raised."

The MP, who moved the Fiscal Management Bill in Parliament, said
failure by the President to assent to it had led to the latest debacle.
He said had the President assented to the Bill, the blame would lie
with Parliament, as MPs would be involved in budget making.

Mbau said failure to operationalise the Bill had made it difficult for
MPs to be involved in budget making, "and they are merely used as
rubber stamps in passing the Budget".

"The country would not be in this quagmire had the President assented
to the Bill. Over the years we have been taken round in circles by
Treasury officials preparing the Budget," said Mbau.

Genuine in his explanation

Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi and his Mwea counterpart Peter Gitau
blamed the debacle on Treasury officials who they said had misled Uhuru.

Linturi called on the Kanu chairman to apologise for the error, arguing
action should be taken against the technocrats involved in the
preparation of the estimates.

Former Kikuyu MP Paul Muite also asked Uhuru to apologise, adding the
glitch had tainted his image. "One feels sorry a computer that has been
blamed for the error cannot appear in Parliament to defend itself so
the minister owes Kenyans an explanation," Muite added.

Local Government Assistant Minister Lewis Nguyai said the minister was
genuine in his explanation, adding he had even withdrawn his intention
to seek Parliament's approval to allow Treasury spend Sh26 billion on
Government operations.

"There was no intention to steal the money and it was an error as the minister has said," he added.

Former Cabinet minister Maina Kamanda also defended Uhuru, saying he was not to blame for the anomaly.

"There are many people involved in such arrangements and it would be
wrong to accuse the minister of wrong doing while he was just given a
prepared report," Kamanda said.

And the Chairman of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee and Ikolomani
MP Bonny Khalwale said by tabling the estimates before Parliament with
the "errors", Uhuru had displayed incompetence in running the sensitive

Khalwale urged President Kibaki to find a more able person to replace
Uhuru in the Finance docket. "Uhuru must be moved from the docket since
Kenyans have no time for excuses that revolve around inefficiency,"
said Khalwale.

Garsen MP Danson Mungatana urged President Kibaki to appoint an
independent audit team to unravel the discrepancies of the
Supplementary Estimates.

He said: "It is shocking a minister can table blindly documents in
Parliament prepared by bureaucrats without reading below the dotted

He said it was prudent for ministers to go through induction courses to understand how their ministries function.

"Many are always in the dark over issues relating to their dockets and believe what they are told by technocrats," he added.

Players in the hospitality industry urged for more seriousness on money
matters by the Government. Religious leaders also cried foul at the
manner Uhuru made the admission.

Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, South Coast branch chairman, Sheikh Khamis Banda said the admission was not acceptable.

"We know for sure that the funds would have been diverted for political
mission preferably to finance the 2012 General Election,'' he alleged.

Banda praised Imanyara for blowing the whistle and challenged MPs to
work as a team irrespective of their parties to redeem the country's

The Standard on Sunday

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