Uhuru quizzed over Sh9.2b ‘typing error’

Monday May 11 2009

Kenya's Minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta chats with unidentified persons as he arrived at Continental House on Monday where he was to meet with the joint Parliamentary committee investigating the Sh. 9.2 billion error in the country's supplementary budget. PHOTO/ MICHAEL MUTE

Kenya's Minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta chats with unidentified persons as he arrived at Continental House on Monday where he was to meet with the joint Parliamentary committee investigating the Sh. 9.2 billion error in the country's supplementary budget. PHOTO/ MICHAEL MUTE 

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU and MACHARIA MWANGI

Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday appeared before a joint House committee to explain a Sh9.2 billion error in the Supplementary Budget.

Mr Kenyatta was questioned by members of the House committees on Finance and that of the Budget at 5.50pm at Continental Building, which houses MPs offices. He was accompanied by his permanent secretary Joseph Kinyua.

The joint committees are on Tuesday expected to table in the House a preliminary report on the discrepancy as had been ordered last week by Speaker Kenneth Marende.

Letters summoning Mr Kenyatta and Mr Kinyua had stated that they were required at 5pm, but the delay was caused by the late arrival of members of the Budget committee, who were attending a pre-budget analysis meeting in Naivasha.

Typing error

The chairmen of the joint committee, Mr Chris Okemo (Finance) and Martin Ogindo (Budget) are to meet on Tuesday at 12pm to finalise the report to be presented in the House in the afternoon.

The team with members drawn from the Finance, Trade and Planning committee and that of the Fiscal Management and Appropriations Committee (Budget) held a closed-door meeting at Continental House.

The six-member subcommittee to report to the full team consists of Mr Okemo, Mr Ogindo, Mr Musikari Kombo, Mr Ntoithia M’Mthiaru, Mr David Ngugi and Mr Lenny Kivuti. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Kinyua were being questioned for the second time, just hours before the team finalised its report.

The two had met the joint committee alongside other Treasury officials engaged in the budget-making process since the inquiry began last Thursday. The team worked through the weekend.

Although the members kept a tight lid on the investigations so far, some said the typing error was a little too consistent to have been missed by the Treasury.

The deputy PM has come under pressure following the revelation in the House by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara that the Supplementary Budget he presented and was passed by MPs had an extra Sh9.2 billion.

Emerging reports have suggested that some senior officers at Treasury may have altered the column that represented figures of last year’s Budget even before the supplementary estimates were taken to the printer.

Mr Kenyatta has since termed the Sh9.2 billion error affecting 200 line items as an oversight arising from a typing error. He pleaded innocence over the matter in Parliament last week and at the weekend claimed he was being sabotaged.

The discrepancies touched mainly on the line items tagged ‘personal allowance’ with the Ministry of Education being the most affected.

Mr Kenyatta’s allies have claimed that he was being sabotaged by a clique of Treasury mandarins and his political rivals.

In Naivasha, some members of the Budget committee asked Mr Kenyatta to resign over the error.

Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim and MPs John Mbadi, David Koech and Elias Mbau questioned the failure by the Finance minister to attend a pre-budget workshop to which he had been invited.

Speaking in a Naivasha hotel, Mr Maalim said Mr Kenyatta ought to have attended the meeting, which was meant to prepare MPs for the main Budget that he is expected to present in June.

Mr Mbadi, the Gwassi MP, also wants the deputy PM to resign or be transferred to another ministry while Mr Mbau, the Maragua MP, attributed the scandal to President Kibaki’s failure to sign into law the Fiscal Management Bill.