Cockar team gets extra month

August 11, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, August 11 – The Majjid Cockar led Commission of Inquiry into the controversial sale of the Grand Regency Hotel has been given an extra one month to conclude its work, following the expiry of its previous mandate.

The Commission, which failed to convene its public hearings on Monday, had applied for a two-month extension to enable it complete its work.

In a statement, the Presidential Press Service also revealed that President Mwai Kibaki has appointed Francis Etole as an additional counsel to assist the commission

Secretary Anthony Ombwayo confirmed to Capital News that the President had granted them until September 10 to present a report.

Businessman Kamlesh Pattni, who formerly owned the hotel, was expected to be the eighth witness at the Commission on Monday.

The team was appointed by President Mwai Kibaki on July 10 this year and given a one-month timeframe to submit a report on the hotel’s sale, which expired last Saturday.

Its terms of reference were to come up with legal and or administrative measures to be taken on those found to have contravened the law in the sale.

The expiry of the mandate however came with the commission having not achieved much with only testimonies from the Lands Commissioner Zablon Mubea and other top lands Ministry officials.

Others lined up for investigation include former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njuguna Ndung’u and the Bank’s secretary over their role in the sale.

The hotel controversy saw Kimunya’s exit from the Treasury following public outcry on how he handled the sale.

Already, reports compiled by a Cabinet subcommittee and a parliamentary Committee have implicated Kimunya of wrong doing and recommended that he be barred from holding any Cabinet position.

The Kipipiri MP has however not yet been adversely mentioned in the Cockar commission hearings.

Attorney General Amos Wako has insisted that he was kept in the dark concerning the transfer of the Hotel from Goldenberg architect to CBK in exchange for amnesty regarding cases the bank has been pursuing against his role in the Goldenberg scandal.

The AG has already ordered the Police Commissioner Major Hussein Ali to undertake separate investigation into the sale.

Besides the mystery on who authorised the ‘Government to Government’ deal with the Libyan government the price of the hotel has drawn equal attention.

In his defense Kimunya claimed that the Sh2.9 billion price was an irresistible deal and was done above board.

Lands Minister James Orengo who was the first to publicly talk of the deal has however denied the price and claimed that the public asset was disposed off at a throw away price of Sh1.85 billion.

However, according to Lands Ministry officials, Orengo’s value was the money CBK had wanted to recover from the sale of the hotel, while Kimunya’s was the sale price that also incorporated other figures including the stamp duty and goodwill.

Chief Government Valuer Anthony Itui Friday defended the Sh2 billion price tag that he attached to the hotel, insisting that it was arrived at using the best valuation

Itui clarified that only the value of the land and the buildings had been taken into account and not the books of accounts, because Grand Regency was making losses at the time.

Itui told the Commission that he was more concerned with establishing the stamp duty to be charged on the property and not the sale value.

The commission was on Monday expected to rule whether lawyers should be allowed to ask questions that don’t directly relate to their clients and the investigations at hand.

Before its premature adjournment on Friday, Counsel Harrison Kinyanjui representing Westmont Holdings, which had initially wanted to purchase the hotel in 1997, wanted Senior Register of Titles Rosina Mule to explain why she allowed the sale despite a court injunction.

Assisting Counsel Wilfred Mati objected, noting that Kinyanjui’s pursuit was likely to open up other cases linked to the sale that were not the mandate of the Commission.


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