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Citizen Weekly

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Uhuru JSC nominees deny graft claims

MPs have questioned the suitability of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s nominees to the Judicial Service Commission, linking them to corruption.
Mr Kipng’etich Bett is accused of illegally acquiring land in Mau Forest while Ms Winnie Guchu is linked to the ‘chicken’ scandal that rocked the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) officials during her tenure as a commissioner.
Members of the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs committee said they were uncomfortable with the suitability of the candidates in view of the claims. The President forwarded the nominees’ names to Parliament last week for approval.
MPs accused Mr Bett of benefiting from illegal acquisition of land in the forest in 1997 while Ms Guchu was questioned about her knowledge of the scandal.
Mr Bett was mentioned in the Ndung’u Land report as having acquired two pieces of land in Mau when he was a public servant. He was put to task to explain why his name appeared in the report that revealed massive land grabbing, if he is innocent.
Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkonga asked whether the nominee knew he owned land at Kiptagich in Mau Forest.
“Tell this committee if you are aware you were allocated pieces of land in the Mau forest, a place not meant for human settlement,” asked Mr Chepkonga during the vetting at Continental House, Nairobi, yesterday.
MPs also questioned why Mr Bett had never challenged the allegations in court if he was not a beneficiary of forest land.
“You must really be lucky as land just came your way. When you applied, did you know it was forest land that is not available to the public?” asked Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’.
Mr Bett denied he had land in the forest but admitted that he never took any action when the report was made public.
“I applied for the land in 1997 but I was not given. I did not go back to the matter up to now. I have not even gone there since then. I never also challenged the accusations in court,” Mr Bett told the committee.
However, MPs were unhappy with his response, arguing that clearing his name in court would be the most appropriate action.
“When you saw your name in the Ndung’u report, what did you do? You say you do not own land there, have you taken action to clear your name after in appeared in the report?” asked Githunguri MP Njoroge Baiya.
Ms Guchu faced questions about the IIEC ‘chicken scandal’ that saw officials receive bribes to give a printing tender to a British firm whose officials were recently convicted of the crime.
“I was not involved in the ‘chicken scandal’. I learnt about it in the media like most of you. I have no knowledge of when and how it happened,” she said.
MPs were also concerned that Ms Guchu would be partisan if given the job, having been President Kenyatta’s TNA party executive director ahead of the 2013 General Election
“Even more alarming is that you signed affidavits in support of the President at the Supreme Court during the election petition. How sure are you you’ll not be partisan?” asked Mr Kajwang’.
“I am a very independent person, I do not get intimidated by power and people,” she replied.