A Senate watchdog committee has cancelled a session intended to question Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua over audit queries scheduled for Monday after the county assembly declined to provide its chambers for the sitting.
The Public Accounts and Investment Committee (PAIC) chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang begins a three-day whirlwind tour of the three counties in Ukambani region to investigate alleged misuse of public funds.
Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui) have been summoned to appear before the Kajwang committee to respond to audit queries and petitions raised by both the Auditor-General and locals.
However, the committee was forced to cancel Monday’s session after the Machakos County Assembly said it will not be available to host the intended Senate PAIC sittings because it is on recess.
In a letter seen by the Nation, Assembly Clerk Felix Mbiuki said he was only notified by telephone of the planned sittings in their chambers but MCAs and staff are also participating in the County Assemblies Sports Association (CASA) national games in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
“We’re not able to host the Senate as informed and therefore request that you reschedule the same to any date after October 6th,” read the letter sent to the clerk of the Senate.
Separately, Governor Mutua said he is ready to appear before the Senate PAIC but asked Mr Kajwang to stop politicising the committee’s oversight role and approach issues objectively and within the known rules of procedure.
Dr Mutua maintained that Machakos Senator Boniface Kabaka has a personal interest which he is allegedly pursuing through the committee.
“In accordance with Senate Standing Order Number 198, we reiterate our contention that Senator Kabaka not to sit during our appearance because of conflict of interest,” the governor said in a letter to the clerk of the Senate dated September 26.
“That the said senator was a member of Machakos County executive [and] his oversight on matters he may have participated [in] as county attorney constitutes an obvious conflict,” Dr Mutua added.
In an unprecedented move, the Senate committee announced that it will grill the three governors in their respective county assemblies to give the public and MCAs a chance to attend the sessions.
In a departure from the tradition where governors have been summoned to appear in Nairobi, the Kajwang committee plans to take its sittings to Ukambani for three days from September 30 to October 2, where they will spend a day each in Machakos, Makueni and Kitui.
Mr Kajwang said his committee will proceed to Makueni and Kitui on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
Last week, the Council of Governors defended county bosses against an alleged political witch-hunt orchestrated by their senators through the watchdog committees.
Council Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya alleged that the Senate PAIC is being used by senators from to settle political scores in the pretext of performing their oversight roles.
In a press statement, Governor Oparanya said whereas they support the Senate and respect its oversight role, the county chiefs were perturbed by the manner in which the PAIC was colluding with senators to embarrass and paint them as corrupt.
He questioned the manner in which unauthenticated reports and documents were tabled before the committee during the second edition of Senate Mashinani sittings in Kitui.
“It is unfair to the county governments to find documents that are strange to them at the Senate. The Senate ought to have served them with the said documents to allow them prepare and gather enough information on them before the sittings,” he said.
This was in apparent reference to last week’s decision by the Senate watchdog committee to invite the anti-graft agency to probe the Makueni governor over an alleged fraud in Sh1.4 billion projects, which was based on an anonymous petition by a resident.
The faceless resident, in the dossier tabled by Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina, outlined 12 projects which he claimed were used to siphon public funds, prompting Mr Kajwang to recommend further investigations.