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Cockar concludes public hearings

NAIROBI, October 3 – The Cockar Commission probing the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel concluded its public hearings on Friday, without receiving evidence from Treasury officials.

Assisting Counsel Wilfred Mati told the commission that he was unable to get a statement from Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua who was said to be out of the country on official duties for the next two weeks.

“Waiting for the availability of the PS would occasion an inevitable delay since we need time to make submissions and the commissioners need time to make their report,” Mati said.

Mr Mati had on Tuesday requested that the commission summon Mr. Kinyua to explain the role played by the Treasury in the sale, after former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya declined to testify. Mr Kimunya snubbed the commison last week saying that evidence presented by the 21 witnesses at the commission did not warrant his defence. Through his lawyer Githu Muigai the Kipipiri legislator said that none of the witnesses had adversely mentioned him.

Chairman Justice Majid Cockar accepted the withdrawal of Mr Mati’s application and gave the lawyers in the commission six days to make their written submissions. The commission, he said, will receive oral submissions on October 13 before writing its report. He directed that the submissions revolve around the transparency of the transfer of the hotel from businessman Kamlesh Pattni to the Central Bank of Kenya and the subsequent termination of the suits leading to the sale.

Cockar advised the counsels: “We want your views on whether the transfer was government-to-government and whether the valuation reports produced in evidence are reliable.”

“Is the purchase price of the hotel reasonable and was the sale conducted in accordance with the law?” he posed. “You must keep in mind that this commission is not supposed to be a legal tribunal. We also want your views as to how far we can go in our observation on any law points.”

Mr Pattni transferred the hotel in April this year in payment of a debt of Sh.2.5 billion advanced to him by the bank. CBK sold it through private treaty at a cost of Sh2.9 billion causing a public outcry. Governor Njuguna Ndung’u has appeared before the commission and defended the move saying that it was meant to avoid legal tussles with creditors and receiver mangers.

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Kimunya was forced to resign at the height of the controversy after Lands Minister James Orengo accused him of complacency in the deal. The Kipipiri legislator however maintained his innocence noting that the sale was a government-to-government deal sealed by the CBK. Parliament nevertheless passed a Motion of no-confidence in him forcing him to resign.

President Mwai Kibaki subsequently appointed the commission headed by Justice Abdul Majid Cockar to establish the role played by Kimunya, Njuguna and the CBK’s secretary Kennedy Abuga. Abuga too has testified and insisted that he followed the law in the transaction. The commission which has had third extensions on its mandate is scheduled to hand over its report by month’s end.

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