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The Senate is on the spot over attempts to frustrate the adoption of its report on the compulsory acquisition by the government of Sh3.3 billion Ruaraka land. The land is claimed to belong to businessman Francis Mburu.

The report by its committee on County Public Accounts and Investments (CPAIC) tabled in August this year, shows that the 13.7 acre parcel is public land.

The committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ wants Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i and Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang’ held responsible and if found guilty, prosecuted for the loss of Sh1.5 billion.

The Sh1.5 billion was released in January this year as down payment to Mr Mburu’s Whispering Palms Company for the land LR NO. 7879/4 where two schools- Ruaraka High School and Drive- In Primary School stand.

SWAZURI BLAMED

The National Lands Commission (NLC) chairman Muhamad Swazuri has also been blamed in the CPAIC’s report for failing to conduct due diligence on the land before prompting the expenditure of public funds.

A similar probe undertaken by the National Assembly committee on Land also said that the controversial land is public utility and the government should not have bought it.

The committee chaired by Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai recommended that Mr Swazuri and officers from Treasury and Education ministries be held responsible.

However, the plot to defeat the report started on August 8, when the report was tabled in the Senate. On September 20, 2018; a motion was scheduled for debate but remains pending to date.

FRUSTRATIONS

Mr Kajwang’ has already expressed his frustrations over the failure by the House to adopt the committee’s report in a petition to Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka.

“This is to request your good office and the Senate Business Committee to schedule debate on this report as a priority before the end of the second session. The logical conclusion to a report that has been tabled is for it to be debated and adopted by the members,” Mr Kajwang’ said in the October 22 letter.

The delay by the Senate to consider the report is a contrast to the government’s renewed efforts and commitment to fight graft in the public service.

Senior government officers among them MPs and PSs are already facing charges in court over abuse of office.

But even as the Senate drags its feet on the report, the National Assembly has since adopted its own.

INVESTIGATIONS

The Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) has also concluded investigations and established that the land belongs to the public.

Why Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji is not cracking the whip on those behind the Ruaraka land scandal is still unclear despite all the evidence being placed at his disposal. Critical questions to ponder are; what is so special about the Ruaraka land that no one has been charged? Why is the DPP so quick to prosecute others while this case remains pending? Could it have been more of a distraction?

The urgency, timing and precision with which the Sh1.5 billion was gathered and paid raised questions- in the middle of a financial year and at the time the country was struggling to raise revenue to finance critical services.

DUE DILIGENCE

Dr Matiang’i and Mr Kipsang are accused of not following due diligence in the acquisition of the land and ignoring the recommendations of a task force they put in place to advice on the acquisition of the land.

Curiously, the two went ahead to acquire the land despite the quality assurance and standards assessment team having established that the space on which the two schools stand is public land and should therefore not be paid for.

This means that the government bought what it already owns. At the time, Dr Matiang’i was Education CS. He formally wrote the request for compulsory acquisition to the NLC.

Mr Swazuri is also on the spot for failing to conduct due diligence on the land and advice the government accordingly.

In an attempt to derail the parliamentary investigations, Mr Mburu moved to court to get orders but the Kajwang’- led committee soldiered on.

DEMANDED KICKBACKS

The businessman would throw in another spanner in the works. This time, he claimed that the Senators involved in the probe had demanded kickbacks from him to generate a favourable report.

Consequently, Mr Lusaka made a ruling that the Powers and Privileges Committee that he chairs, investigates the complaint by Mr Mburu related to the conduct of the CPAIC members in the course of the inquiry.

Despite Mr Mburu producing no evidence to back up his claims, the privileges committee is yet to see any wisdom to summon him to say what he knows.

By delaying the probe, Mr Lusaka is not doing any justice to the Senators who were branded extortionists.

CORRUPTION

“This delay is suspicious. The Senators are walking around with the stigma of corruption on their heads. This matter must be addressed immediately,” Governance expert Barasa Nyukuri said.

The delay has also sounded alarm bells over the Senate’s role and commitment to defend devolution.

“It is quite dangerous to allow a precedent where persons indicted by a committee make unsubstantiated allegations and cause the Powers and Privileges Committee to indefinitely suspend the work of the committee,” Mr Kajwang said.

Considering that CPAIC is a sessional committee and that the second session of the Senate is about to end, the plan could be to drag the conclusion of the debate into the report until the life of the committee ends, according to a Senator, who did not want to go on record.

ILLEGAL TRANSACTION

A majority of Senators, who also feared discussing the matter in public because it is against the House Standing Orders, believe that in the event that the current session ends without debate, a new committee perhaps with “friendly or compliant members” will have to be formed.

They said this could be the end of the report and a reprieve for those involved in the irregular and illegal transaction.

If this happens, the report will have to be tabled afresh in line with the House rules, which defeats the urgency and importance of the recovery of the money paid to the businessman.

“We are seeing a situation where parliament indicts a person then the same person accuses parliament and the process stalls,” a Senator who did not want to go on record said.

OVERSIGHT ROLE

The Senators further said that once parliament has invested in a process, it must be concluded otherwise “we are seeing schemes to waste time and let the plunderers of public resources get away scot-free.”

“When parliament fails in its oversight role, who should the public run to? This is the question that the Senate as a House of parliament should be able to answer because the committee’s investigations were funded by the taxpayer. You cannot tell us that what was done was in vain,” another senator said.

There is also the possibility of buying time to await the kind of ruling on the matter that is currently before the courts.

OVERSIGHT ROLE

The Senators further said that once parliament has invested in a process, it must be concluded otherwise “we are seeing schemes to waste time and let the plunderers of public resources get away scot-free.”

“When parliament fails in its oversight role, who should the public run to? This is the question that the Senate as a House of parliament should be able to answer because the committee’s investigations were funded by the taxpayer. You cannot tell us that what was done was in vain,” another senator said.

There is also the possibility of buying time to await the kind of ruling on the matter that is currently before the courts.

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