PM addresses Parliament over Grand Regency

July 8, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, July 8 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Tuesday sought to clear his name over the controversial sale of the Grand Regency Hotel and denied in Parliament that he was directly involved in the transaction.

Giving his first statement in the August House as a Prime Minister (PM), Odinga said that he was kept in the dark regarding some aspects of the transaction.

The PM however admitted that he had received a progress report on the transaction from the Central Bank Director Njuguna Ndungu, but heaped blame on the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) for failing to clarify a number of issues that he had raised.

“KACC did not furnish me with all the documents as per my request on April 26; I was just forwarded partial evidence so I could not make an informed assessment,” he stated.

Odinga’s statement came hours after the embattled Finance Minister Amos Kimunya announced his resignation, paving way for independent investigations into the sale. Kimunya has insisted that Odinga was consistently briefed on the transaction and had approved it.

Kimunya had also maintained that the Attorney General Amos Wako, KACC boss Justice Aaron Ringera and Lands Minister James Orengo were all aware of the deal and should therefore step aside to pave way for investigations. The PM however dismissed Kimunya’s assertions and defended the implications of the AG and the Lands Minister.

“The House is intelligent enough to understand the reasons for those allegations,” he scoffed.

The Premier informed the August House that the state would be commissioning a fresh inquiry into the saga and would engage the services of experts.

“We are now proceeding to carry out investigations – not just examining those documents – and this is going to be done by experts, not the people who have been mentioned.”

While appreciating the role Parliament had played in the progress of the saga, Odinga cautioned members against interfering with the work of the Executive.

“Parliament should only act where the Executive has failed to act, it should not try to do the work of the Executive,” he asserted.

Speaker Kenneth Marende at the same time directed the Parliamentary Finance Committee to complete its investigations into the sale within two weeks, and ordered that debate on the sale be deferred until the Committee’s probe is complete.
However, after his statement, MPs insisted that Odinga also step aside for failing to raise his concerns to the Cabinet.

“I would want the Prime Minister to clarify that he failed to bring this matter to the Cabinet. Leading by example, he should have been the first man to show that he is a man of high morals by stepping aside,” Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo told the House.

Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale, who moved the censure motion against Kimunya, urged all government officials involved in the transaction to resign.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General Amos Wako has directed the Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali to carry out comprehensive investigations into the sale of Grand Regency to a Libyan Company.

In a letter dated July 4, Wako said the investigations should look into the conduct of and roles played by public officials in the Ministries of Lands and Finance and the Central Bank of Kenya, who were involved in the transaction.

“I require you to carry out thorough and comprehensive investigations into all the allegations and the surrounding circumstances relating to the above mentioned sale transaction,” Wako said in the letter.

He underscored that owing to the ‘national importance, urgency and gravity of the matter’, the investigations ought to be completed within 30 days.

The AG said he has requested the KACC Director Justice Ringera to accord the police any technical assistance necessary.

The letter, which was copied to both Justice Ringera and the Director of Criminal Investigations Gatiba Karanja, was a response to a letter from a non-governmental legal body, Kituo Cha Sheria, to the AG on the saga.

In its letter, the legal advisory organisation said it had been retained with firm instructions from more than 300 members of the Name and Shame Corruption Network (NASCON) and the National Civil Society Congress (CSC) which it said constituted a considerable fraction of the larger civil society.

“The foregoing institutions work in areas of human rights, governance and democracy sectors, as well as the development sector, and they consider grand corruption in the nature and style of the Grand Regency Hotel saga to be a violation of human rights,” the letter stated.

The legal organisation said it would not belabour on the substance of the matter adding that it was well in the knowledge of the AG and other government departments, upon whom the 300 organisations had impeccable reasons to believe were ‘complicit in all known criminal manner.’

“Our instructions are therefore to write to you and to express the public interest in the conclusion of this matter, through the prosecution of all the known officials in as far as the matter is concerned,” it stated.


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