NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 7 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday skipped Parliament where he was scheduled to issue a statement on the controversial reinstatement of Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula.
Through a statement sent to House Speaker Kenneth Marende, the PM said he could not attend the afternoon session as he had to attend to other government business.
Mr Marende however directed the PM to issue the statement on Thursday afternoon, despite a plea by Mr Odinga to deliver it on September 14.
The House Speaker argued that the matter had raised a lot of public interest and there was need to clarify and quell concerns raised regarding the reappointment.
“The House does not put any business on the Order Paper, particularly government business, unless the government says it is ready to transact that business. So for us to put that on the order paper, we must have received information from the Prime Minister that he would be ready to give the statement today,” he argued.
“So there is no excuse for him not to issue the statement tomorrow (Thursday),” he said.
Internal Security Minister George Saitoti was ordered by the Speaker to inform the PM of the directive. Although he tried to defend the PM’s whereabouts, Prof Saitoti was reminded that the Speaker’s directive would not be altered.
Prof Saitoti explained that the PM was busy preparing for a regional summit that kicks off on September 9 arguing that it was taking up a lot of his time.
“Order Minister! You are challenging my direction. I will not vacate or vary the directive which I have made. It shall stand. The Prime Minister shall issue the statement tomorrow afternoon,” he maintained.
Mr Wetangula was reinstated last month raising sharp criticism from MPs and other members of the public.
The Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations demanded to know why Mr Wetangula had been reappointed yet the committee as well as the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) was still probing him on the Tokyo embassy scam.
The anti corruption watchdog is also scheduled to launch its investigations into another scandal in Japan.
Mr Marende also noted that MPs were facing a court case over their failure to pay taxes despite being required to do so by the Constitution. He explained that the Parliamentary Legal Counsel would look into the issue but also called on the MPs to enjoin their own personal lawyers in the case, if they could.
“The Petition is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday September 8. I would like to emphasise that the representation of the Speaker, the Clerk and the 204 Members of Parliament is limited to so much of the petition as it relates to their official capacities,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker has barred the Ministry of Local Government from transacting any business in Parliament following its habitual absenteeism from the House to respond to members’ questions.
Mr Marende said the ministry would only be allowed to transact its business in the House after satisfactorily explaining why they had not been showing up to respond to questions raised.