While the Executive was accused of hounding the three commissioners ? Mr Mumo Matemu, Ms Irene Keino and Ms Jane Onsongo ? the Legislature yesterday targeted the secretariat by sending home the Chief Executive and his deputy, who have been overseeing the processing of high profile cases that the President made public in March.
But the outcome put the ball squarely on the feet of the President, who may choose to assent to the Bill or return it to the members with a memorandum.
If the MPs disagree with the President, they will then have to marshal two-thirds majority to overturn State
House?s recommendation. A bitterly divided House made last-minute changes to an amendment bill and agreed to send home the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission?s (EACC) top officials, who are currently probing top State officers for alleged theft of public funds.
The decision, which was made at an acrimonious sitting in the House, saw 70 MPs vote for what they said was a ?fresh start? at Integrity Centre.
That meant the Chief Executive Halakhe Waqo and his deputy Michael Mubea had to be sent home. Only 39 MPs had wanted the top two administrators of the EACC to stay on. One MP abstained.
Though Waqo and Mubea will have to stay in acting capacity until the new commissioners ? currently being recruited?pick their substantive choices for the jobs, the MPs? decision knocks the wind out of President Kenyatta?s sails in the anti-corruption war.
The debate was taken over by regional politics, accusations of nepotism and tribalism, and a shade of payback by some MPs from Ukambani, who are still bitter with Matemu?s removal.
The MPs went after the secretariat less than two months after the three commissioners quit under pressure from the Government. Their exit followed acrimonious run-ins with the secretariat over the corruption claims and charges.
The secretariat has been the MPs? target since March 26 when they sneaked to Uhuru a confidential dossier implicating five Cabinet secretaries, some principal secretaries, members of two parliamentary committees and nearly a dozen MPs over allegations of bribery, extortion, abuse of office and corruption.
The House corridors and offices were abuzz as the lawmakers lobbied their colleagues for numbers to either back or defeat the last-minute amendment to the EACC (amendment) Bill 2015 by Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini) to send Waqo and Mubea home.
Wamalwa, the Deputy Minority Whip, cut a forlorn and harassed look in the corridors of the House as he waited outside National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi?s office to have the amendment approved for tabling in the House.
An MP confided to The Standard that Wamalwa was under pressure from senior Government officials to drop the amendments and that he had to camp at the Speaker?s office to stop Majority Leader Aden Duale from pushing the Speaker to reject the amendment on a technicality.
Duale (Garissa Township) had earlier pleaded with Wamalwa to drop the amendments. ?I have had a lot of pressure to withdraw it, but I said, let me bring it to the House so that it is defeated here,? explained Wamalwa when he finally got the chance to table the amendment.
The majority leader, chairman of Public Investments Committee Adan Keynan (Eldas) as wells as Fatuma Ibrahim (Wajir), Ali Rasso (Saku), David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East) and Samuel Gichigi (Kipipiri) opposed the amendment.
Duale argued it was unfair to make a law to sack a public officer without a fair hearing. ?This House has passed the Fair Administrative Action law. In that law, passed barely two months ago, it says for you to remove a public servant you must accord them fair administrative justice. You can?t remove the secretary and his deputy through mob justice. If we do what we are doing, that CEO and his deputy will go to court and say this House was wrong. I oppose,? he said.
But Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi East) said payback time had come to tell Duale he made a mistake to send Matemu home. ?They fought when we were removing Matemu. Now the secretariat has to go so it will give the new commissioners time to reorganise the secretariat,? said Mbalu.
The MPs also tried to push the commission against making its investigations public and involving the media in raids, but these attempts were scuttled. But they got the chance to have the commissioners picked by the Public Service Commission and then approved by Parliament.
The rationale for sending the EACC secretary and his deputy home, Wamalwa explained, was that the MPs had already expanded the commission from three to five members and stripped all commissioners of permanent contractual terms.
Having the current secretariat retained, he argued, would emasculate the new commissioners. ?They are still eligible to apply. If they are competent, they will be employed,? said Wamalwa.
MPs said there was no point of having a new team leading an ?old engine?.
David Bowen (Marakwet East) added: ?If we want to have harmony, the new commissioners must recruit a new secretariat.?
An attempt by Gichigi to have the amendment dropped on the technicality that a similar attempt had been made and defeated not long ago, failed. The presiding Speaker Moses Cheboi stopped Gichigi in his tracks because the previous attempt was through a motion, while this time it was a law. ?Let us not use technicalities, let us focus on the substance,? ruled Cheboi.
Michael Kisoi (Mbooni), Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurweini), Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), John Waluke (Sirisia) and Mbalu backed the call for the secretariat to be dismissed.
Makali added: ?The commission is sick, the commissioners were in the ICU but the secretariat was in the High Dependency Unit.?
But for Gikaria, the MPs were simply frustrating the President?s war on graft. ?The other side has been claiming the Executive is not willing to fight corruption, they know the commissioners are absent. Now they want to send the secretariat home,? he said.
Rasso (Saku) said: ?The amendment is in bad taste.?
Amina Abdalla accused Kabando of witchhunt: ?When he (Kabando) was lobbying, he told me the secretariat must go because it was unfair to his friend.?
By Alphonce Shiundu, The Standard