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Kibaki orders inquiry into Grand Regency saga

NAIROBI, July 10 – President Mwai Kibaki has appointed a five-man team led by retired Judge Abdul Majid Cockar to probe the controversial sale of the Grand Regency Hotel.

In a gazette notice dated July 10, 2008, the President said that the Commission of Inquiry that takes up its duties with immediate effect would be expected to hand over its report within one month.

Commissioners in the team are Charles Kirui and Kathurima M’ Inoti, with Anthony Oteng’o Ombwayo as the Secretary to the Commission, and Wilfred Nyamu Mati as Counsel to the Commission.

“I Mwai Kibaki, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya, being of the opinion that it is in public interest to do so, appoint a commission to inquire into the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel,” part of the statement issued on Thursday read.

The Commission’s terms of reference mandate it to investigate the role played by the Minister for Finance, the Governor and Company Secretary of the Central Bank of Kenya, and any other person(s) involved in the sale of the hotel.  It will recommend legal or administrative measures that would be taken by the government.

The probe team will hold public hearings and receive written and/or oral statements from any person with relevant information. It may also use any previous reports in the matter and receive expert opinion in any relevant areas.

The Commission has powers to summon any person concerned to testify on oath and to produce any books, valuations or any other documents that the commissioners may require.

"It will hold the public inquiry in Nairobi but may hold private hearings whenever it becomes necessary," the statement added.

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The new team’s constitution comes barely two days after the embattled Finance Minister Amos Kimunya stepped aside to facilitate what he called ‘independent investigations’ into the saga.

Last week, Prime Minister Raila Odinga had appointed a technical probe committee led by the Attorney General Amos Wako, and including Ministers James Orengo and Mutula Kilonzo as well as the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Director Aaron Ringera, but Kimunya dismissed the committee saying its members were party to the transaction.

During his weekly media briefing on Thursday, Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua stated that the probe would be independent and its report would be made public.

“It is important that an independent professional non-partisan team that is also outside direct government bureaucracy be tasked with the responsibility of laying bare the facts relating to the sale, because this the only way we are going to make an objective conclusion of the matter,” he intimated.

Parliament last week passed a motion of no confidence in the Finance Minister over the sale of the hotel, which they say was shrouded in secrecy. Civil society groups had also joined the fray, calling on President Kibaki to sack Kimunya.

The Kipipiri MP has pleaded his innocence, and stated that he authorised the sale of Grand Regency through private treaty (as provided by the law) in what he termed as ‘a very good deal that they couldn’t resist’.

The hotel, he said, was sold at Sh2.9 billion to the Libyan government. He however came under fire for bypassing the Cabinet, the AG and ignoring the advice of the KACC boss.

But Kimunya insisted that the PM, Orengo, Wako and Ringera all knew of the deal and should therefore also step aside.

In his defence, Odinga claimed that he was kept in the dark regarding some aspects of the transaction.

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Orengo blew the whistle on the deal late last month, saying that he had reliably learnt that the hotel had been disposed of undercover.

The ministry has since put a caveat on the land to stop any transaction on it until issues surrounding the sale are cleared.

Speaker Kenneth Marende has already 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.
The Attorney General, meanwhile, has directed the Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali to carry out comprehensive investigations into the sale and report back within 30 days.

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.

Kimunya’s exit has created a gap at a time when his input is needed, particularly during debate on the National Budget in Parliament.

Dr Mutua said the president is holding consultations on Kimunya’s replacement and the outcome will be communicated soon.

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