Corruption claims rock NYS probe but House team says it is all hot air

Saturday December 17 2016

Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen. He has accused some members of the Public Accounts Committee of receiving bribes running into millions of shillings.  PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen. He has accused some members of the Public Accounts Committee of receiving bribes running into millions of shillings. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PETER LEFTIE
More by this Author

Investigations into the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal have been thrown into a spin following fresh allegations that some members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) received hefty bribes to influence the outcome of the probe.

In a letter to the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi dated December 16, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen sensationally accuses some members of the powerful parliamentary committee of receiving bribes running into millions of shillings from a bank, which has been adversely implicated in the scandal to shield it from investigations.

This is the latest twist in the intricate web that has provided a stage for claims and counter-claims.

The Senator whose law firm — Sing’oei, Murkomen and Sigei Advocates — is being investigated for receiving Sh15 million from a company linked to the NYS saga, wants at least five members of PAC investigated for either receiving bribes or conducting business with and benefitting from the stolen billions.

The MPs Mr Murkomen wants investigated include the PAC chairman and Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, his Vice Chairman Jackson Rop (Kipkelion West), Junet Mohammed (Suna East), John Mbadi (Suba) and Kareke Mbiuki (Maara).

Mr Murkomen’s explosive letter is the latest twist in an investigation that has degenerated in claims of bribery and extortion, name dropping and finger pointing, threatening to damage the reputation of one of the most powerful parliamentary committees and scuttle the probe into scandal in which the taxpayer is believed to have lost at least Sh1.6 billion.

The embattled Senator, whose law firm has cited client confidentiality in refusing to release details of transactions allegedly done on behalf of Out of the Box Solutions, wants Mr Muturi to direct the parliamentary Powers and Privileges Committee to investigate some of the members of PAC on several issues, among them allegations that Mr Gumbo and Mr Rop held meetings with persons adversely mentioned in the scandal.

ADVERSELY MENTIONED

“Did the Chairman and the Vice Chair have any meeting with any person adversely mentioned in the investigations and with a view of refusing to invite those persons to the PAC for questioning,” Mr Murkomen writes.

“Did the Chair, Vice Chair and/or any member of the Committee meet with any of the Banks and was there any alleged payment of Sh40,000,000 shared among some Committee Members to protect one or more of the Banks in the course of investigations?”

He then falls short of demanding the resignation of Mr Mbadi and Mr Mohamed from the committee on account that they have already been adversely mentioned for allegedly doing business with NYS or the parent Devolution ministry.

“Some of the members of the Committee have been adversely mentioned in relation to some of the Contracts with either NYS or the Ministry of Devolution. The public would like to know how the Committee will handle the conflicting position of John Mbadi and Junet Mohammed who have been directly mentioned as beneficiaries of Contracts in the same ministry where the chief protagonists are being investigated,” he claims.

He also questions why Mr Mbiuki is sitting in PAC yet he is still under investigations with regard to claims that he was among the former members of the Agriculture committee who are being investigated for allegedly receiving bribes from a former Chief Executive officer of Mumias Sugar Company to write a favourable report.

But contrary to Mr Murkomen’s claim, the Nation has established that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) closed the investigation file into the allegations due to lack of evidence regarding the alleged bribery.

On Saturday, Mr Mbiuki dismissed the Senator’s allegations. 

“Senator Murkomen wants to soil our good name as a committee. We cannot be cowed by prime NYS suspects who want to divert public attention and derail the course of uncovering the truth,” he said.

DISCHARGE MANDATE

The MP added: “PAC as currently constituted has discharged its mandate to the chagrin of many. In fact, how we have kept to the script of our work despite different political affiliations while handling national issues has kept other committees wondering. That fact has made the committee a target and before we know it you will start hearing songs of disband PAC.”

In communication directed to his colleagues in the committee, Mr Rop said the Senator’s letter alleging corruption was simply meant to divert attention and added that he had earlier suggested PAC should simply retreat and write their report.

“These are diversionary tactics by Murkomen and his cronies. Murkomen almost fought me recently when the President was in Kericho for failure to protect him,” he said.

Mr Gumbo, Mr Mbadi and Mr Mohammed were not immediately available for comment.

But the PAC chairman has previously rubbished such claims as part of a scheme to portray the committee in bad light in order to scuttle the investigations.

“You must understand this scandal touches a lot of people, some of whom hold positions of influence. There’s nothing they would love more than to make the committee look bad,” Mr Gumbo is reported to have said.

Last week, he accused Mr Murkomen of sending him abusive text messages over the investigation, something the senator has denied.

Mr Mbadi has previously questioned the committee’s resolve to summon some of those mentioned adversely — including Mr Murkomen’s law firm and Deputy President William Ruto’s aide Farouk Kibet who has been linked to key suspects Ben Gethi and Josephine Kabura. But in an apparent reaction to the Suba MP’s outspoken stance, the Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale claimed that two companies linked to Mr Mbadi had done business with NYS.

But the Suba MP accused Mr Duale of fishing for a scandal to discredit him saying Takawiri Limited, one of the companies mentioned, was run by his wife but went dormant in 2011 before the NYS scandal started in earnest.

“Still, even before Takawiri went dormant, it never engaged in business with the government. I challenge Mr Duale to produce any document to prove that the company transacted business with the government including the NYS,” said the ODM Chairman.

Mr Mohammed’s family was linked to Zeigham Enterprises Ltd and Fahaza Ltd, which did business with NYS. In subsequent media interviews, the Suna East MP said the companies were not among those being investigated for involvement in the scandal.

DEFLECT ATTENTION

He also termed the move by Jubilee MPs to link him to the scandal as meant to deflect attention from the investigation. The vocal MP has been conspicuously absent from committee sittings probing the NYS deals. 

In his letter to the Speaker, the Senator further questions why PAC is looking into a scandal which is being probed by other investigating agencies such as the EACC and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

“What happens where some of the members like in the case of PAC now are under investigations by the said institutions? How do you secure the process from intimidations and cover-up?”

The allegations place PAC in almost similar circumstances it found itself in the past after its former members led by Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba were forced out of office over bribery allegations.

Some members of the Namwamba led team were accused of receiving the bribes from then Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo to cover up a Sh2.8 billion “confidential expenditure” under the ministry’s 2012/2013 vote.

When he appeared before the committee to answer questions regarding the role of Mr Murkomen’s law firm in the scandal, the managing partner Hillary Sigei refused to table the firm’s financial statements dating back to 2013 citing “customer confidentiality.”

This is unlike another lawyer, Patrick Ogolla, who had appeared before the committee and shared with MPs details of his clients Ben Gethi and John Kago’s accounts. The duo is among the prime suspects in the scandal.

The committee had been initially slated to go for a retreat to draft its final report but the position shifted following new revelations that at least 17 commercial banks were used as conduits in the transfer of the NYS billions.

It remains unclear when the committee will compile its report in view of the accusations and counter accusations that threaten its very credibility.