Macharia Gaitho: Report that indicted Kimunya left a great deal to be desired

FINANCE MINISTER AMOS Kimunya has certainly come out fighting. After being caught napping by the events which culminated in a parliamentary vote of no confidence, the man had to retreat to the laager of his backyard to make his stand.

In Fortress Kipipiri, there would be nobody asking pesky questions or making all manner of accusations as he suffered during that mob justice ordeal in Parliament.

Coming out with both barrels blazing, Mr Kimunya claimed that Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Lands minister James Orengo and Attorney-General Amos Wako were all in the picture about the controversial sale of the Grand Regency, and if he were to resign over the issue, they should, too.

Mr Kimunya is either being extremely mischievous or simply giving back as good as he got.

The Finance minister has taken a proper battering over the secret sale of the Grand Regency to a Libya Government corporation.

Yet if we all analyse the matter dispassionately, we might conclude that he has not been given a fair hearing. Please note that this is not to say he is innocent.

A fair trial was, of course, impossible in a Parliament that was in a lynch mob frenzy last week. It did not help that the minister was being treated like a leper by his political allies. He must have left that place recalling the song of reggae legend Peter Tosh: Jah, Jah save me from my friends, for I know my enemies.

The no confidence vote in Parliament justifies the demand that Mr Kimunya relinquish his ministerial post. Yet if he was battered by a lynch mob in Parliament, he was also stabbed in the back in the court where he could at least have hoped for a hearing — the Cabinet.

The Cabinet Committee on Finance, Administration and Planning, chaired by Mr Odinga, met on July 1 and appointed a technical committee to probe the sale.

The committee was not composed of technical experts, but of Mr Kimunya’s fellow Cabinet ministers, and it was chaired by his chief accuser — Mr Orengo!

Another member of the committee was Nairobi Metropolitan minister Mutula Kilonzo, who had come out early in the saga to dismiss as unrealistic the Sh2.9 billion paid by the Libyans for the Grand Regency. Mr Kilonzo claimed some inside knowledge on how much the hotel should be worth, having acted as a lawyer for one of the parties in an earlier transaction involving it.

Mr Kilonzo can speak with authority not just on Grand Regency and the related Goldenberg scandal, but also on many of the other very murky dealings that are holdovers from the Nyayo Kleptocracy.

THEN THERE WAS THE ATTORNEY-General, Amos Wako and Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority boss Aaron Ringera, two gentlemen who have failed spectacularly over the years to tame grand corruption, but have always been very enthusiastic in deflecting blame.

The last member of the committee, who served as secretary, was Mr Caroli Omondi, a newcomer in the public service as Principal Administrative Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. Mr Kimunya never appeared before the committee to give his side of the story.

The first report produced by the committee after the sitting on July 2 indicated that only two persons were called to provide information, Central Bank governor Njuguna Ndung’u, and secretary Kenneth Kaunda Aboge.

The two were the signatories to the sale, and thus were rightfully held squarely responsible for one of the dodgiest deals in recent times, especially for the way in which the transaction was suspiciously crafted to avoid privatisation and public procurement laws.

Oddly, there is no record that the officials in Mr Orengo’s ministry who got involved in the transfer of the property, the Commissioner of Lands and the Registrar of Titles, were summoned to explain the roles they played.

The report, however, finds that they registered the transfer following threats and intimidation, but does not mention where that evidence came from and who was responsible for the threats.

There is also an earlier reference to external pressure to conclude the sale, but again no mention of who was pressured and by whom.

Nowhere in the report is there the slightest indication that Mr Kimunya was involved in the deal. The report gives a long list of documents studied, and nowhere is there anything linked to the Finance minister.

It remains unclear, therefore, whether Mr Kimunya was found “guilty” for publicly supporting the sale once it was exposed, or for playing a more direct role not mentioned in the report.

Or maybe it is just the principle that the Minister for Finance takes ultimate responsibility for iniquities committed by the Central Bank.

There are many gaps in the report that cry out for fuller, impartial and more competent investigation. The deficiencies in the report just provide room for Mr Kimunya, Prof Ndung’u and others involved to cry foul and hang tough, which only detracts from the need for the two gentlemen to step aside while the murky sale is investigated.

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