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Citizen Weekly

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

BRIBERY CLAIMS HIT AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE



NAIROBI: The National Assembly's Agriculture Committee was Tuesday struggling to wade through the quagmire of myriad corruption allegations leveled against it, even as its leadership pleaded innocent against accusations of receiving a Sh4 million bribe.
The committee's meeting turned stormy and near physical as members engaged in exchanges over allegations that the bribe was allegedly paid to the committee Chairman Adan Nooru by suspected sugar barons to water down the committee's report on the sugar crisis in the country.
The committee's meeting, which had started as a closed door session was opened to the public after some members insisted that the bribery allegations be made in the glare of cameras, with a face-off erupting where some members insisted that money changed hands to alter the report.
On one side, Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, Nyando's Fred Outa and John Kobado (Uriri), who have declined to sign the report tabled in the House, claiming the initial one was doctored to drop names of those who had mismanaged Mumias Sugar Company, stood their ground that bribes were paid to influence the report.
On the other side, committee members piled pressure on the three to substantiate claims they had allegedly made that Sh60 million was paid to the committee to overturn the report. Both Washiali and Outa denied ever making the allegations, though the former maintained that the Sh4 million deposited in Nooru's account had a bearing on the 'hollow' report tabled in the House.
Besides the Sh4 million, an agitated Washiali even invoked another Sh100 million figure, which he claimed that Sigowet/Soin MP Justice Kemei had whispered to him as having been set aside by the sugar barons to ensure the report was watered down in the House.
"If I was to talk of money, I would not have said Sh60 million. I would have stated Sh100 million, which Kemei had whispered to me that it was set aside to take care of the House for altering the report. I know that he may deny it now because of these TV cameras, but I must say it," said Washiali.
However, it is the controversy over the Sh4 million, allegedly deposited in the personal account of the committee chairman that caused more hostilities, with Washiali and Mt Elgon MP John Serut engaging in exchanges that went almost physical.
The issue of the money was first raised by Lugari MP Ayub Savula, who during the committee deliberations in Mombasa allegedly tabled the deposit slip, alleging that the money was paid to the chairman to influence the content of the report.
 SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE
Washiali maintained that position Tuesday. "I have a feeling the Sh4 million has had an effect on the report that we came up with. I know the money was deposited in your account and even if you want to kill me, I will speak about it," claimed Washiali.
He added: "To us the Mumias sugarcane farmers, this is a matter of life and death. If you have taken the Sh4 million at the expense of us losing our livelihood, know that you will have to face our wrath".
"You do not need to go to a witchdoctor or be a magician to figure out why the report on Mumias was altered and names dropped," he said.
But Serut, Othaya MP Mary Wambui and committee vice chairman Kareke Mbiuki (Maara) challenged Washiali to give evidence on the money, saying his statement insinuated that MPs who had signed the report had also received part of it.
"Savula, who brought this matter to the attention of the committee, has never substantiated his claims. He must now come and apologise and withdraw the claim, just as Washiali owes us an apology," said Mbiuki.
Nooru defended himself against the allegations of bribery, insisting the committee members had worked overboard in producing the report. He said there was consensus on dropping the names as they did not have evidence to drag the same in their report.
"We decided to leave it to the wisdom of the House to decide if they could employ the draft report of the KPMG from where the names were imported," he said.
Nooru accused Washiali of insisting that the report must indict a particular name, which he said the committee rejected as there was no sufficient evidence to link him to Mumias woes.