The blinds have been pulled back on the intrigue that led to the deletion of all hostile references to Prof Njuguna Ndung’u from the report of the House committee that investigated the decline of the shilling.
Mr Shakeel Shabbir, who sat on the ad hoc committee, and who also sits on the Finance Committee, said money was paid to MPs to expunge the name of the Central Bank governor and all the recommendations indicting him from the committee report. (READ: CBK Governor survives House censure over shilling)
“A journalist called me two days ago and asked me if I thought MPs were corrupt, or if I thought money had changed hands in the debate on the (decline of the) shilling report. I said, no. I tried to defend the MPs. But, after what happened yesterday, I can say that MPs are corrupt! People were paid. They took money,” Mr Shabbir said.
The MP said the only other time money had changed hands in such colossal proportions was during debate on the parliamentary report on the purchase of Kenya’s embassy building in Japan, in which an estimated Sh1.1 billion was allegedly misappropriated.
Back then, Mr Shabbir said, a vocal MP, who is no longer in Parliament after he lost an election petition, was the paymaster.
“(He) was walking with thousands of dollars in his shirt pocket. He was moving in the House from member to member asking each of them how much they needed to change their stand,” Mr Shabbir said of the former MP.
So, did Mr Shabbir share in the loot? “I am not for sale, and they know it!” he said.
That money changes hands in Parliament is not a secret. But getting one to speak on the record the way Mr Shabbir did on Thursday is rare.
To most MPs, the deals are part of lobbying. The payments range from Sh5,000 to Sh200,000, but some get more, depending on how they are viewed in the House. Those known to be guns for hire cost more. The MPs congregate at an office within Parliament or in the lavatory to get paid. That’s what happened last week, according to Mr Shabbir.
A close examination of the events of the proceedings reveals curious changes of heart and mind in the run-up to the debate.
For instance, Mr Chris Okemo (Nambale), the chairman of the Finance committee, who was co-opted into the ad hoc committee to investigate the shilling crisis, criticised the report, saying the conclusions did not tally with the evidence adduced.
In November, when Parliament resolved to form the committee, Mr Okemo promised to have members of the Finance committee join the ad hoc team because the Finance committee had already begun work. He said that was meant to “enrich and not duplicate” the investigations of his committee.
“We will work together and share the information that we already have, and we can produce one report,” Mr Okemo said then. But he attended only one meeting of the ad hoc committee. He was not among the 13 of the 19 members who countersigned the report. And he was singing a different tune.
“This whole thing was hijacked by the ad hoc committee. I think even in future we need to be clear that when a matter rightly belongs to a committee of Parliament that is where the matter belongs,” Mr Okemo said. “We have not even written our report. We are still halfway, and we are going to continue to pursue this matter.”
Mr Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurwei-ni) and Mr Martin Ogindo (Rangwe) questioned Mr Okemo’s change of heart. Mr Kabando called on Mr Okemo to make a “full disclosure” on his change of mind and wondered if it had something to do with “some judicial process”.
Mr Okemo is wanted in Jersey to answer to charges of fraud and money-laundering, which allegedly happened in his time as Energy minister in the Moi government. The Nambale MP dismissed questions about his motives, saying he had reservations about the conclusions of the report. When the matter was put to vote, he voted to expunge the name of the CBK governor from the report.
Makadara’s Gideon Mbuvi said he had read a Reuters report stating that Prof Ndung’u had been rated as the worst-performing governor on the continent.
“From this report, it is clear that the governor can’t handle the magnitude of work expected of a person at the helm of the CBK. It is time he quit,” the MP said. But Mr Mbuvi voted to expunge the committee’s recommendation seeking Prof Ndung’u’s dismissal from the post.
Dr Boni Khalwale (Ikolomani) also backed clearing the governor’s name, arguing that it was unlikely for President Kibaki to act on a parliamentary censure of the CBK governor.