Confusion grips Parliament over Justice Mumbi’s ruling

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 17:58 |
Parliament in session. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

A court ruling barring state officers charged with economic crimes from accessing their offices pending trial has sent panic and confusion among Members of Parliament (MPs) as investigative agencies move to enforce the landmark ruling.

Like other public and state officers, Justice Mumbi Ngugi ruled, all elected executives should step aside once charged for a criminal or economic offence until their cases are heard and determined.

People Daily has established that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) have allegedly tightened the grip on a number of state officers including governors, MPs, and Members of County assemblies (MCAs) facing graft charges in court.

However, it was not immediately clear how the anti-graft agencies will implement the court ruling given MPs are elected state officers even as EACC insisted the lawmakers must also step aside.

“Absolutely, any state officer, whether governor, senator or Member of Parliament or county assembly must step aside. That is the ruling. Period,” EACC communications officer Yassin Amaro told People Daily in a phone interview yesterday.

Samburu Governor Moses Lenokulal and his Kiambu counterpart Ferdinard Waititu were the first victims of Justice Mumbi Ngugi verdict that sought to have any public or state officers charged with corruption step aside pending trial.

Following the ruling, the EACC said on Twitter on July 24th, 2019: “It will no longer be business as usual for constitutional office holders facing criminal charges of corruption and economic crimes.”

As such, the ODPP and EACC have trailed their eyes on lawmakers as they seek to enforce the ruling on at least 10 MPs currently battling graft related charges.

Punctured by the Mumbi’s ruling, a powerful senate watchdog committee now wants parliament through its leadership to take a position on the fate of the embattled legislators.

Pandora’s Box

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Investment (CPAIC) said the ruling had opened a Pandora’s Box and that it has serious implementation challenges.

“This is a decision not only for the senate but Parliament as a whole. The ruling has already disciplined governors but it’s unclear on how to deal with other state officers, including MPs and MCAs,” the Committee Chairman Senator Moses Kajwang told Journalist at Parliament buildings on Thursday.

“What will happen to our colleagues, does it mean they should all step aside if they are chairs and vice-chairs of the parliamentary committee or what will happen, should they stop chairing those committees,” he posed.

The Homabay Senator has called on Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka and his National Assembly counterpart Justin Muturi to interpret and find the ramifications of Justice Mumbi Ngugi’s the ruling on members of Parliament.

Senator Kajwang’ was speaking moments after the feared CPAIC committee barred Governor Lenokulal from appearing before it to respond to 2016/17, 2016/17 and 2017/18 audit queries by Auditor General.

He was flanked by Senators Mohammed Faki (Mombasa), Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu), Sam Ongeri (Kisii), Ledama Ole Kina (Narok) and nominated Senator Millicent Omanga Lenokulal was charged in May with corruption and unlawful acquisition of public property.

In her ruling, the High Court Judge ruled that Lenokulal can visit his office only with the authorization of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

“Mumbi’s ruling has serious ramification and its implementation is beyond CPAIC or the senate, the verdict should not be for the senate but for parliament as a whole to pronounce itself,” the senator noted.

Just this week, Bobasi MP Innocent Momanyi and Kisumu County Assembly Speaker Onyango Oloo were among 35 individuals who charged with corrupt related charges over the construction of sh 4.1 billion Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) mall in Lake Side city of Kisumu.

Other legislators who have been charged over graft dealings include James Gakuya (Embakasi North), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), John Waluke (Sirisia), Ayub Savula (Lugari) and Owour Aduma (Nyakach).

Stanley Muthama (Lamu West), Patrick Musimba (Kibwezi West) and Gideon Mulyungi (Mwingi Central) among others.

Economic Crimes

A host of Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) are also facing criminal and economic crimes including rape, robbery and impersonation.

Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga has hailed Judge Ngugi’s ruling saying it has taken the war on corruption to the next frontier.

“The question on who needs to step aside should never arise as long as you are charged in court with corruption,” Senator Nyamunga claimed.

According to her, wastage of public resources must be fought by raising the standards of integrity.

“Whether you are a public officer like those in the legislative wing or the executive, the moment you step in court, you must do the honorable thing of resigning,” she reiterated insisting that it will definitely set a good precedent for the future generation.

However, Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa differed with Senator Nyamunga  saying legislators cannot step aside as they don’t wield any executive powers like governors, cabinet secretaries, and principal secretaries.

Wamalwa said the reasoning behind stepping aside is not to interfere with pending investigations as such MPs don’t have any executive office or manage any public resources.

“The work of an MP is legislation, oversight and implementation, we don’t manage any public resources directly instead we oversight,” he noted.

He continued, “Houses speakers don’t need to pronounce themselves on this matter as the senate committee has misinterpretation Mumbi’s ruling,”
Wamalwa, who is also deputy Minority Whip in the national assembly held that its only state officers with executive authority that will step aside in case of an investigation.

On his part, Wajir Senator Ali Abdullahi Ibrahim said it will be a tall order for the investigative agencies to enforce the radical court ruling as it lacks fundamental clarity.

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