This is a new regular feature where we will review past editions of the Hansard to highlight debates that are of particular national importance (and to show that we know that MPs do work from time to time).
The debate below on the irregular award of the concession highlights an important issue – who gets to “step aside” when allegations of corruption have been made.
Irregular Award of Concession to Rift Valley Railways (RVR) (week of January 16, 2011)
Mr. Mbadi: asked the Minister of State for Public Service what disciplinary measures the Government has taken against the public officers mentioned in the 16th Report of the Public Investments Committee adopted by the House, for their involvement in the irregular concessioning of the train operations to Rift Valley Railways by the Kenya Railways Corporation.
The Minister of State for Public Service (Mr. Otieno): Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to reply. The 16th Report of the Public Investments Committee recommended that the Director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission should carry out investigations to establish the roles played by the Chief Officers from the Treasury and the Ministry of Transport in awarding the concession to Sheltam Railways/Rift Valley Railways. The PIC Report did not recommend any disciplinary measures to be taken against the Chief Officers who participated in awarding the concession to the railway company. However, it did recommend further investigations on the process of concessioning. Consequently, no disciplinary action has been instituted against any of these officers.
Mr. Mbadi: Mr. Speaker, Sir, Chapter 6 of the Constitution of Kenya is very clear on the requirements on the part of public officers with regards to integrity. Not long ago, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Secretary had to step aside before the Report of the House was debated. Early last year, we had a case where five permanent secretaries were asked to leave office because of pending investigations by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission. My question is: Why is the Executive applying double standards in terms of asking for accountability from its public officers?
Mr. Otieno: Mr. Speaker, Sir, the Committee recommended investigations. There is no basis of taking any disciplinary action until we get the report of that investigation.
Mr. Mbadi: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, Sir. Is it in order for the Minister to evade my question? I was very clear. I said that in February last year, the Government asked five permanent secretaries to step aside because they were facing investigations by KACC. Here is a case where two Ministers, one Permanent Secretary and the Investments Secretary of the same Government are confronted by investigations by KACC. Why is it that they have not been asked to step aside to pave way for investigations? In fact, one of the Ministers is in charge of the Ministry of Transport at the moment, where investigations are supposed to take place.
Mr. Otieno: Mr. Speaker, Sir, the Committee, in its wisdom, did not ask anybody to step aside when it asked KACC to proceed on this matter. In other cases, the Committee recommended stepping aside to facilitate investigations. It means that the Committee did not have adequate information. It was referring the matter to KACC to investigate. But it did not, in its wisdom, request any stepping aside to facilitate that investigation.
Mr. Mbadi: Mr. Speaker, Sir, I want to find out from the Minister how investigations will take place in that Ministry and that State Corporation when the Minister in charge is among the people to be investigated?
Mr. Otieno: Mr. Speaker, Sir, I think we all know that KACC is very competent and can investigate whether you are in office or not. At an appropriate timewhen there is need to step aside, they have procedures to follow.
Mr. Mbadi: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, Sir. Is it in order for the Minister to continue misleading the House, while he knows very well that the reason why Ministers and public officers are asked to step aside is – and in their own words when they step aside – it has become a tradition to say that they are leaving to give room for fair investigations? The main reason for stepping aside is to give room for fair investigation. It is not that a body is incompetent or not. Could he explain why, this time round, you are leaving those officers in office and yet, other officers in a similar situation were asked to step aside to give room for fair investigations?
Mr. Otieno: Mr. Speaker, Sir, we make decisions on the basis of the content of the issues that arise. Where the content is of a type that stepping aside is the way forward, then that direction is taken. The other examples he is giving, there was content that warranted such steps forward. In this particular case, the Committee itself did not even see it fit to suggest that anybody should step aside. There was insufficient content in that Report and I have said that the Treasury has already addressed the Office of the Speaker on this particular matter; on the basis of the facts that were laid before the Committee, which need to be further reviewed and possibly the Committee will make a different decision after receiving all this feedback from the Treasury.