, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 2 – There was drama in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon with tempers flaring among Members of Parliament as Prime Minister Raila Odinga sought to defend himself and his office against claims that funds under the Kazi Kwa Vijana (KKV) programme had been squandered.
MPs on both sides of the political divide traded barbs as they sought to accuse or defend the PM after he issued a statement arguing that the issue was a political witch-hunt by his rivals, as no money had been lost in the project.
Odinga asserted that his defence was supported by the final review by the World Bank on the project.
“When it came to the final result of the review, of the 14 expenditure items earlier suspected to be ineligible, nine were in fact no longer questioned,” he stressed.
The PM also dismissed allegations that the Sh4.3 billion component of the Kenya Youth Empowerment Programme was lost because the project was cancelled.
He maintained that the funding from the World Bank had not been cancelled but had only been restructured to reorient the funds to other activities for youth empowerment.
The PM remained unperturbed even though Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa tried to take him on, arguing that the funding had been cancelled as indicated by a letter dated October 11, 2011.
Konoin MP Julius Kones also put the PM on the spot asking him why the government had shut out local leaders in the initiative arguing that it would help monitor the disbursement of such funds.
“The only thing we have done is re-design the project but no funding has been cancelled. Our youth programme will still continue and when we re-design it, it will give more room for local leaders to participate” he maintained.
The PM also downplayed calls by some members of the House, like Wamalwa, Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu) and Boni Khalwale (Ikolomani), to assume political responsibility over the alleged scandal and resign.
He maintained his innocence saying he would not let the matter deter him from discharging his duties as Prime Minister.
“Let me end with a quote from John F. Kennedy; ‘A man does what he must, in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures, and that is the basis of all human morality,” he countered.
Wamalwa however told the House that action must be taken against those who embezzled the funds saying it was not benefitting the targeted population.
The PM eventually told the House that those found guilty of stealing a single coin from the project would be held to account. He also said that the government would reimburse the World Bank Sh107 million that had been lost in the Sh43.2 billion initiative through integrity issues.
“Earlier the Prime Minister said that money was lost so obviously money intended for the youths of this country was misappropriated. We are saying Kazi kwa Vijana but the money goes to the older folks. This money went to some old folks at the PM’s office,” he quipped.
Those in the PM’s camp, who tried to defend him were met with sharp objection from their peers. Sports Minister Kabando wa Kabando at one point called them sycophants in direct reference to Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba, who had quickly come to the defence of the PM.
However House Speaker Kenneth Marende ordered him to withdraw the remark after which Kabando called them ‘those who follow others blindly’.
“The sycophants in this House are known and they are now standing,” retorted the Mukuruweini MP as Namwamba shot up to his feet.
During the heated debate Khalwale also urged the House Speaker to caution backbenchers against issuing statements that were supposed to be issued by the government side.
Yatta’s Charles Kilonzo echoed his sentiments saying that Namwamba should desist from ‘helping the PM make his statement.
“Namwamba needs to relax because the PM will answer. He is a seasoned politician and we have confidence in his abilities,” he said.
A visibly angry Namwamba would however not take the comments lightly but his attempts to interject were shut down by Marende, who wanted to keep the debate sane.
Lands Minister James Orengo also dared Wamalwa to table any evidence he might have regarding the alleged scam and at some point took a jab at Wamalwa’s walking style.
“If you’re not satisfied with the response, decorum dictates that you come with facts. If any member has any evidence which wasn’t covered by the PM’s statement then he should come with that evidence. Let’s not turn this into a debating club,” retorted Orengo.
“You know Wamalwa always drives to the point when he has sufficient grounds but today he seems to be wobbling,” he quipped forcing Marende to interject.
It was then that Orengo said that he used ‘wobbling’ to refer to Wamalwa’s walking style.
Khalwale further claimed that he had documentation indicating how three officials from the office of the PM allegedly misappropriated funds.
He demanded that the PM states what roles Caroli Omondi, Racheal Gesami, Mohammed Isahakia and John Musale played in managing KKV initiative.
“What role did Caroli Omondi, Mohammed Isahakia, Racheal Gesami and the deputy Chief economist- John Musale play in KKV?” asked Khalwale.
“And is it true that Isahakia wrote a letter dated July 18, 2011 through a circular in which youth groups pay Sh300 shillings to a specific bank to open bank accounts to get cash in KKV?” asked the outspoken legislator.
Namwamba however said that the allegations were baseless after which he was again accused of defending the government.
The PM also claimed that the Sh5.2 million allegedly awarded to Gesami had been done so wrongly and that it would be reimbursed.
He further alleged that the reason why the youth groups were asked to pay Sh300 was so that the government could assess their seriousness in the initiative.
Westlands MP Fred Gumo also asked Marende to issue a directive that members be warned against debating parliamentary issues at funerals.
“They go to funerals not to mourn but to carry this House’s debates,” argued Gumo.