NAIROBI, July 8 – Embattled Finance Minister Amos Kimunya finally bowed to pressure to pack his bags and leave office Tuesday over the controversial sale of the multi-billion shilling Grand Regency Hotel.
Speaking at a press conference that lasted less than two minutes, the beleaguered Minister said he had already sent his resignation letter to President Mwai Kibaki.
“Accordingly, I have requested His Excellency the President, that I be allowed to step aside to facilitate the inquiry,” he said.
Kimunya’s words negate those he uttered at a public rally in his Kipipiri constituency on Sunday, where he said that he would only step aside if an independent committee is appointed to probe the transfer of the five-star-hotel to Libyan investors and finds him guilty.
He had insisted: “If what I saw in Parliament, where people shout; you have done this and that, then you are thrown out. If this is the kind of justice I am going to receive on resignation, then I would rather die than resign.”
The MP however maintained that his conscience was clear and he was not involved in any wrong doing.
Lands Minister James Orengo blew the whistle on the Grand Regency deal late last month, saying he had reliably learnt that the hotel had been disposed of undercover at cost of Sh1.9 billion.
What followed were accusations and counter accusations for and against Kimunya, who was adamant that the sale was conducted with Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s knowledge.
Kimunya stressed that even Orengo knew about the sale, and had further demanded a Sh3 million bribe to allow the otherwise ‘clean’ sale of the hotel to go through.
This statement has prompted the Lands Minister to threaten to take court action against the Kipipiri MP.
The immediate former Finance Minister, who said his resignation was resultant of wide consultations with his family and friends, has now asked the government to constitute an independent inquiry to investigate the matter.
A five-member team has already been appointed to probe the Grand Regency sale, and on it sits Justice Aaron Ringera, head of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.
Kimunya declined to take questions from journalists who requested for the exact meaning of ‘stepping aside’.
The Minister said the brief press statement he read was the only information he was allowed to give by his lawyers.
“If you allow, the inquiry begins now. So whatever I say could be used for or against me. I have been asked by my lawyers to leave it there.”
Below is the statement he read:
"I have held several consultations with His Excellency the President, my family and friends, as well as colleagues, on the ongoing issue of the disposal of Grand Regency Hotel.
As I have indicated before my conscience is very clear on the role of Treasury, and specifically myself in this matter. I have maintained the position that I am open to an independent inquiry to prove my innocence.
Accordingly, I have requested His Excellency the President, to be allowed to step aside to facilitate the inquiry.
I wish to thank my family, all my friends and constituents who have stood with me in prayer during this period. The Truth will set us free.
Thank you all, and God bless Kenya."
Hon. Amos Kimunya
Minister for Finance
The 46-year-old Kimunya was elected as MP for Kipipiri constituency in 2002 and appointed Lands and Settlement Minister the following year. He moved to the Finance Ministry in February 2006 following the resignation of his predecessor, David Mwiraria, who was implicated in the infamous Anglo-Leasing scam.
He was reappointed to the Treasury in January this year.
Kimunya was credited with maintaining the economic growth that Kenya enjoyed after President Mwai Kibaki took power in late 2002. He made history as the second youngest Minister for Finance after Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.
During his tenure as the country’s financial custodian, Kimunya was praised by many for reducing the government’s dependence on aid in the three national budgets he prepared. He has however been criticised for failing to address the plight of the common man by avoiding meaningful tax rebates on basic commodities.
Kimunya’s star started dimming after he embarked on the disposal of public assets in an ambitious privatisation program. The former accountant has faced criticism for ignoring laid down procedures in the process. The companies include KENGEN, Telkom Kenya, and the recent Safaricom IPO.
A former club captain at the prestigious Muthaiga Golf Club, once a favourite haunt for President Kibaki, Kimunya is viewed by many as part of the President’s inner circle of politicians.