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Findings that forced minister and PS to leave under a cloud

Wednesday October 27 2010

By SAMUEL SIRINGI, [email protected]

The damning report that forced Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula and permanent secretary Thuita Mwangi to step aside made serious accusations against them.

It not only called on them to resign, but also proposed that they be barred from holding public offices if found guilty.

The Report on the Procurement, Disposal and Construction of Properties of Kenya’s Diplomatic Missions called for further investigations by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC).

The report by Parliament’s Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations also indicted deputy head of mission at the embassy in Japan, Mr Allan Mburu

Moses Wetang’ula, Foreign Affairs minister

He is accused of deliberately misleading the House by claiming there was value for money while the government actually lost about Sh1.1 billion.

The minister, too, said that hiring a lawyer was expensive and would have cost Sh45 million when the fee was Sh3.4 million.

He told the committee that a lawyer called Shihoshoshi drafted the agreement when, in fact, he was not a lawyer and had only facilitated the registration of the property.

Mr Wetang’ula also said the shape of the plot offered by the Japanese government was irregular, rendering it unsuitable for embassy premises.

This contradicted an architect’s report that the plot allowed more floor space and that a tall structure could be built to cater for other diplomats.

He said the government of Japan had put a caveat on the plot allowing it to excavate, at any time, for archaeological materials. Yet, the team established that the whole of Tokyo was an archaeological area.

Mr Wetang’ula told the team that ambassador Dennis Awori chaired a meeting that decided to buy the premises, but Mr Awori said he was attending a conference when the deal was sealed. The committee recommended that Mr Wetang’ula takes political responsibility and step aside for investigations.

It further proposed that the minister be barred from holding public office and be reprimanded for misleading the committee.

Thuita Mwangi, Foreign Affairs, PS

The PS who stepped aside on Wednesday failed to ensure that the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act were complied with in the purchase of the Tokyo embassy.

In particular, he did not ensure that valuation was conducted on the properties by an independent firm in Japan, despite being warned by his juniors that the property was overvalued.

The report said Mr Mwangi failed to institute investigations after a fire gutted part of the embassy.

Mr Mwangi also failed to insure the property after the purchase price and transfer it to the government of Kenya.

It says he authorised payment before making adequate arrangements to guarantee that the transfer of the property shall be done, exposing the government to risk of financial loss.

He also purported to have signed a sale agreement in Tokyo while he was actually in Nairobi.

Of these, the committee recommended that he steps aside for investigation.

It recommended that KACC investigates his conduct in the purchase, sale or construction of missions abroad, particularly the Tokyo property. If found guilty, it adds, Mr Mwangi should be prosecuted and barred from holding any public office.

Allan Mburu, Deputy Head of Mission, Kenya embassy, Japan

Mr Mburu is accused of signing a sale agreement on behalf of the government without authority from the Foreign Affairs ministry. Only the permanent secretary is authorised to sign such agreements. Mr Mwangi signed another agreement leading to the deal running on two pacts.

The team also accused Mr Mburu of granting himself the power of attorney, meaning he could transact business of behalf of the government.

He is further accused of discriminating against other bidders by bargaining and agreeing a price with the owner of the property before advertising for bids.

“The advertising was done in English newspapers which had limited coverage in Japan,” said the team’s report.

Besides, Mr Mburu was also accused of disregarding professional advice warning that the embassy building was overvalued.

He is also alleged to have misled MPs feigning ignorance of the letter from the ministry cautioning on overpricing of the property and need for a valuer.

The committee recommended that he step aside to allow investigations into the transaction be conducted.

If found guilty over his conduct, Mr Mburu should be barred from holding public office.