Mr Ababu Namwamba, the chairman of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee, is under siege. He has been accused of abetting corruption, receiving bribes, and doctoring documents. He has also made counter-accusations of corruption against members of the defunct committee he led.
Before Mr Namwamba’s tribulations came out in the open, Parliament’s leadership retreated to Mombasa and came up with a raft of rules for MPs in what it described as an effort to “restore the image of Parliament.” This was a rare confession that the hitherto honourable House had completely lost the respect, honour, and dignity befitting a national legislative body.
However, what followed leaves more questions than answers about the real motives of the retreat. Was it really an effort to rehabilitate Parliament’s image or a scheme to strategise the fall of Mr Namwamba and his committee?
Whether Mr Namwamba is the captain of “MPs for hire” or a victim of political machinations remains to be seen. However, there is no doubt that both he and the committee members he accuses of “eating chicken” are culprits in this circus of corruption.
Mr Namwamba’s tribulations are not unique. In fact, this has become the norm rather than the exception in Kenya’s Parliament.
Those levelling accusations against their peers in the committee do not even pretend to be fighting corruption in the PAC; rather they are lamenting that the chairman and other members did not share the bribes.
Were it not for Mr Namwamba’s party ODM’s perennial factional fighting and the ruling Jubilee’s strategy of striking at the weakest link, allegations of corruption within PAC would never have become public knowledge. It is a classic example of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The PAC is not the only committee of Parliament that needs to be disbanded because of corruption. Speaker Muturi’s interest in investigating the PAC allegations and subsequent takeover of its functions is suspect. He could be serious about fighting corruption in Parliament.
Unfortunately, most Kenyans have little, if any, faith in Parliament as an anti-corruption crusader. Many are wondering about the Speaker’s motives for suspending the committee. Was the committee scheduled to summon some sacred cows in coming weeks?
What about the re-emergence of Anglo Leasing? Can the Speaker or Mr Namwamba make public the PAC’s schedule for the next few months? Obviously, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s “Chickengate” and Mumias Sugar’s woes are top candidates for PAC grilling.
Were Kenya Civil Aviation Authority officials expected to appear before the committee to explain how they lost land to the developer who attempted to annex the Lang’ata Road Primary School’s playground?
Whether Mr Namwamba is guilty or not, the sudden “love” he has received from western Kenya politicians is a clear indication of what ails Kenya.
Western Kenya politicians seem to believe that Nyanza politicians in and outside the PAC had ganged up against Mr Namwamba to settle ODM scores.
On the other hand, western Kenya MPs are leading an onslaught on Governor Evans Kidero in the Mumias Sugar scandal.
There are too many corruption scandals involving MPs. It is, therefore, foolhardy to expect the current crop of MPs to rehabilitate the image and authority of Parliament. The Waiguru impeachment drama is a case in point.
The architect of this soap opera, Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi, made a joke of parliamentary process when he fled as he was expected to table the Motion against the Cabinet secretary.
Several MPs alleged that Mr Linturi had been persuaded to abandon, at the eleventh hour, a Motion he had so vigorously lobbied for. There were threats of disciplinary action against Mr Linturi, but the Mpeketoni massacre took the focus off him.
Parliament is charged with protecting the public’s interests, but the fact of the matter is that the current crop of MPs cannot be trusted with any oversight role. Perhaps we need a snap election or the return of the recall clause that the MPs killed, to help Parliament clean up its dented reputation as a corrupt institution.
Mr Kaberia is assistant director of International Programmes at the University of the District of Columbia.