20 August 2018

Kenya: Kajwang Denies Bribe Claims in Ruaraka Land Probe By Senate

The Senate Public Accounts and Investments committee has denied allegations that some of its members tried to solicit for bribes to influence the outcome of investigations into the ownership of the controversial Sh3.3 billion Ruaraka land.

Mr Francis Mburu, who claims ownership of the 13.77-acre city land, through his companies - Afrison Export and Import and Huelands Limited - claimed that the committee members asked for Sh100 million in order to write the report in his favour.

The committee has been investigating circumstances under which, in January 2018, the government paid Sh1.5 billion in down payment for the land that it owns and where two public schools - Ruaraka High and Drive in Primary - stand.

DIVERT ATTENTION

The Senate committee chairman Moses Kajwang' Monday came out guns blazing, saying that Mr Mburu's claim is a plot to divert attention in the war against corruption.

"It is unfortunate that he has chosen this path to distract the attention from his alleged criminal act. Alongside his (suspected) partners in crime, they have attempted all tricks to frustrate our inquiry and suppress the truth," Mr Kajwang' said.

Mr Mburu, who refused to testify before the committee despite being granted an opportunity, claims that he has submitted to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) the audio recordings of the committee members asking for bribes.

But Mr Kajwang' said that Mr Mburu's claims are enough for Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka to summon the Powers and Privileges committee to investigate the matter.

In the report before the Senate, the committee established that the 13.77-acre land actually belongs to the government and should not have been paid for.

FINDINGS

The committee's findings are also similar to those of the National Assembly's Lands committee which investigated the matter and the affidavit filed in court by the anti- corruption commission over the disputed land.

The committee's decision was based on the submissions by Land Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and the Intergovernmental Technical Relation Committee, which submitted that the land in question is actually public.

"We assure the public that Parliament shall not be cowed into silence by lords of graft who think that Kenya is theirs to loot. This committee has chosen to stand with the children of Ruaraka who are being used as pawns in a macabre dance of grand corruption," he said.

A taskforce established by the Ministry of Education reported that the land in question belonged to the government and advised then CS Fred Matiang'i not to authorise its compulsory acquisition.

However, the CS ignored the taskforce report and directed the National Land Commission (NLC) to get the land.

BRING OUT TRUTH

The Senator has also urged the investigative agencies - the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) and the DCI not to lose track of their investigations and bring out the truth.

"If the audio clips he claims to have are validated through the right process, then the matter should be held in an open court so that people get to know the truth and those implicated should face sanctions," Mr Kajwang' said.

The Powers and Privileges Act provides sanctions against members who abuse their parliamentary privileges for their selfish gains.

THREATS

But even as he defended the committee from the attack that now puts the image of the Senate in question, Mr Kajwang' said that it was not smooth sailing during its investigations.

The committee chairman said that Mr Mburu is among individuals who threatened the members and that in one of the committee's meetings, his lawyer Nicholas Nyamai, if not openly exhibiting contemptuous attitude towards the committee, he was busy trying to curtail the investigations through court orders.

The Daily Nation, which exposed the scandal, was also gagged against reporting the parliamentary probe into the matter.

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