Bribery claims against senators persist – Auditor General’s report
Fresh allegations of senators being compromised by governors to influence the outcome of the Auditor General’s report have emerged.
The matter, which was raised by the House leadership, casts doubt on the senators’ integrity and ability to oversight and probe abuse of public funds in counties.
The allegations follow complaints by governors, through the Council of Governors (CoG), over the conduct of the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC).
This is not the first time the committee, which is chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ and deputised by his Meru counterpart Mithika Linturi, has come under scrutiny over its integrity.
Last year, the team fought off bribery claims by controversial Nairobi businessman Francis Mburu that some of its members solicited Sh100 million during investigations on the controversial Ruaraka land.
The House leadership, through Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki, Leader of Majority Kipchumba Murkomen and his Minority counterpart James Orengo, has voiced concern that the committee appears “too cosy with county chiefs who appear before them to answer to audit queries”.
According to the Senate leadership, money exchanges hands before and after the committee grilling sessions.
The powerful watchdog committee is currently scrutinising Auditor General’s reports for the 2017/2018 financial year.
Taking to the floor of the House on Wednesday, Murkomen claimed members were behaving like sycophants or “mouthpieces” of the county bosses at committee sittings.
“There are complaints that sometimes we are having cosy relationships with governors when they arrive in these committees.
We are accused that we keep praising them, thanking them for being our former classmates, and telling them that we look forward to having tea in their villages,” he said.
Murkomen, who is the Elgeyo Marakwet Senator, kicked off the storm when he rose to contribute on the approval motion of the county governments’ cash disbursement schedule for financial year 2019/20. He said the House leadership feels that the committee’s performance is below par owing to the alleged trade-off with governors.
“I would like to challenge the CPAIC that the expectation of this House is beyond what you think you are doing very well,” he said.
Orengo accused the committee of making the House a laughing stock.
“I urge the County Public Accounts Committee that these remarks are really for them to intensify their work,” he said.
Two weeks ago, National Assembly Leader of Majority and Garissa Town MP Aden Duale accused members of the committee of allegedly soliciting bribes from governors to “sanitise” audit queries raised by the Auditor General.
Instead of senators oversighting county governments, Duale claimed, they were in bed with the 47 county bosses.
“The Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee has never produced any report indicting any governor since the House started its sitting in the 12th Parliament,” said Duale.
“The senators sanitise Auditor General’s report, let’s call a spade a spade. Why is it that the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly has indicted ministers, their principal secretaries and parastatal chiefs? Why is CPAIC is yet to nail anyone?” he asked.
According to him, the only thing the committee has done is to cleanse the auditor general’s reports.
But Kajwang’ dismissed the claims, saying, in an interview with People Daily : “The Speaker should never allow members to use parliamentary privilege to discuss another House or to malign other members without substantiation.”
Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri, who is a member of the committee, also defended his colleagues, saying the committee has been able to bring to book governors, who initially could not even appear before it.
He added that the accounts for financial years 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18, that had not been done in the last Session of the Senate had now been cleared.
Kindiki, however, said a person—accused of misusing money meant for roads, and hospitals—“had captured the committee by its balls.”