NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 20 – A meeting between Senators and Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter looking into the multi-billion shilling wind power project in Marsabit aborted Wednesday after the CS petitioned the committee to give him more time to seek a comprehensive legal opinion from the Attorney General since the matter is in court.
Keter who was required to answer questions raised by Senator Moses Wetangula (Bungoma) on the Sh74 billion project argued his hands were tied as the matter was already before court.
CS Keter backed his position quoting the Senate’s Standing Orders Article 98, which according to him, should give him such latitude.
“You realize in my answers I have not answered all the nine questions. I have omitted some because the subject is actively in court and having been advised by the AG Kihara I will not answer your questions,” he said.
Article 98 that spells out how a committee should handle a matter of sub-judice under sub section 3 (C), the provision states that “civil proceedings shall be deemed to be active when arrangements for hearing, such as setting down a case for trial, have been made, until the proceedings are ended by judgment or discontinuance”.
Activist Okiya Omtatah and Nyakina Gisebe Wycliffe are in court challenging the procurement process of the project which they argue Kenyans might have lost Sh39 billion after alleging that Lake Turkana Wind Power Limited was paid the money yet it did not supply any energy.
CS Keter’s argument sparked a flurry of questions from members.
Senator Wetangula reminded CS Keter that the committee was at liberty to prosecute the matter and warned him not to peg his argument on “escapists legal technicalities” so as to evade the members questions.
He took issue with the CS after he failed to furnish the committee with the relevant documents such as the pleadings as filed in court and issues raised in the pleadings noting that it was upon the committee to proceed.
“He has just said that he has been advised by the AG but we don’t know whether it is in writing, on phone or verbal and as a committee we cannot allow that to pass,” he said.
Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina backed Wetangula’s arguments and cautioned Keter that he risked being in contempt if he failed to answer the Senators’ concern.
“We cannot have a CS come here and tell us that he cannot answer our questions, so then are we going to be doing our job or we are going to have CSs come before committees and direct us on how the proceedings should go. I think that is contemptuous and the parliamentary powers and privileges Act is very clear in terms of when any witnesses call to appear before a committee if do not abide by the rulings made by the chair,” he said.
Earlier, Committee Chairman Ephraim Maina (Nyeri) who had ordered the CS to be cooperative after the session was forced into a 10 minute break to deliberate on the legal options on how the matter can be prosecuted, noted that it was incumbent on CS Keter to do so in his own interest because the issues raised were of “national interest”.
But upon much pleading and back and forth, Maina ruled that CS Keter should appear before the committee on Monday next week to answer to all the concerns raised by members.