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Wetangula faces shock claims of fraud in House

Thursday October 21 2010

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang'ula has been put on his defence over irregularities in procurement of Kenya’s missions abroad where tax-payers allegedly lost millions of shillings. October 21, 2010. FILE

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang'ula has been put on his defence over irregularities in procurement of Kenya’s missions abroad where tax-payers allegedly lost millions of shillings. October 21, 2010. FILE 

By JOHN NGIRACHU,[email protected]

A Parliamentary committee has asked Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula to step aside to allow the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate what it describes as the corrupt and fraudulent purchase of land by the ministry in Tokyo, Japan.

The House fell silent at 5.30pm as Adan Keynan, who chairs the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, rose to ask the House to adopt the report levelling shocking allegations against Mr Wetang’ula and top ministry officials.

For the next hour, Mr Keynan made a series of accusations, all intended to establish a pattern of impropriety by the minister going back many years.

Speaker Kenneth Marende will confirm whether a report of the Public Investments Committee recommended that Mr Wetang’ula never be allowed to hold public office. Mr Wetang’ula objected, saying the matters Mr Keynan was referring to had all been “laid to rest”.

Mr Keynan had made reference to three previous PIC reports touching on what he described as Mr Wetang’ula’s law firm and its service to the Sugar Development Authority as well as the minister’s previous work at the Electricity Regulatory Board.

Mr Wetang’ula was the chairman of that board and the accusations prompted him to ask for the Speaker’s intervention, arguing that the MP was discussing his character without a motion to allow that.

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“I have spent more than 30 years to build my reputation as a lawyer in this country. The reports being tabled and referred to here are meant to prejudice the reaction to me,” he said.

Mr Keynan stood his ground, pointing out that he was merely referring to reports of the House which showed a pattern of impropriety on the part of Mr Wetang’ula and doubts about his suitability to hold public office.

He said his committee moved fast to stop the Foreign Affairs ministry from buying 10 maisonettes in Nairobi for hosting visiting dignitaries when there was clearly no need for them.

He accused the ministry of abusing the policy of acquiring property as a cash cow just the way the Kanu government in the 1980s and 1990s used parastatals.

“Where there was a need to buy, there was a deliberate attempt to overvalue, where they needed to sell, there was a deliberate attempt to undervalue, and where they were building, to vary the costs,” said Mr Keynan.

He said the title deed for the Tokyo deal was invalid because it was obtained through unenforceable contracts.

Two agreements exist on the purchase of the Tokyo land, one purportedly signed by Permanent Secretary Thuita Mwangi and another by Mr Allan Mburu, the Charge D’Affairs. Mr Keynan said Mr Mburu did not have the authority to sign on behalf of the country.

Mr Mwangi was in Nairobi on July 30, the day he was said to have signed the sale agreement in Tokyo, while Mr Mburu gave himself the authority to sign the deal, Mr Keynan said.

Mr Wetang’ula made notes as Mr Keynan presented his case while Mr Mwangi and other ministry officials watched from their place next to the Speaker’s seat.

Mr Wetang’ula was accused of lying to the committee that Mr Dennis Awori, the ambassador, had signed the necessary documents, but the former ambassador produced documents to show he was in Botswana at the time.

Mr Keynan said his committee was of the opinion that the Tokyo deal was an outright fraud, a rip-off and that those responsible should be held accountable.

Mr Wetang’ula did not get a chance to defend himself as the House ran out of time. The report will be debated on Tuesday next week.

If the House adopts the report with its recommendation that the minister steps down, it is almost certain that he will be suspended.