Governors who defy summons to respond to county matters under probe will soon be arrested and prosecuted.
This is after Senate watchdog committee said it will legislate a law allowing senators to issue warrants of arrest to the defiant governors.
Senate Public Accounts Committee chairman Moses Kajwang on Thursday told correspondent that his team will put the law proposed by the outgoing prosecutions boss Keriako Tobiko in place to deal with rogue governors.
The Director of Public Prosecutions last year asked PAC members led by former Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong’o to introduce new provisions in the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, 2014 to issue warrants of arrest and fines to uncooperative governors.
Tobiko advised senators following Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya’s failure to honour the committee summonses to respond to audit queries on suspicious county expenditures from the time he assumed office in 2013.
“We will tighten loopholes in the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges law. There are big gaps in the law, hence, need to be strengthened in totality considering that our devolution is barely five years,” Kajwang said.
Senators relied on the DPP to have governors defying committee summonses be prosecuted but the High Court barred the prosecution’s office from using the Penal Code provision to prefer charges on belligerent county bosses.
The court, instead, directed that uncooperative governors should be punished under the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act provisions.
The Act, however, lacks the provision for parliamentary committees to independently issue warrants of arrests and fines, among other penalties.
Kajwang, also the Homa Bay Senator, reiterated that his committee will ensure all the 47 governors appear before them to account for billions of county funds they receive from the exchequer.
“If you have nothing to hide, why would you not want to appear before Senate? I want to ensure that governors are treated in a dignified manner when they appear before my committee because they are also elected leaders,” he said.
The committee is expected to grill former top county leaders who are now senior government officials.
The officials include Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka (ex Bungoma governor), Senate Majority Chief Whip Susan Kihika (ex Nakuru County Speaker), State House Comptroller nominee Kinuthia Mbugua (former Nakuru governor) and Cabinet Secretary nominee Ukur Yattani (former Marsabit Governor).
They are expected to respond to audit reports for 2015-16 financial years the Auditor General Edward Ouko presented to Senate last December.
The reports indict them for suspicious expenditures and irregular management practices while in office before the August 2017 general election.
“In the event the committee requires information, it will be proper for us to call people who were holding those offices,” Kajwang said.
“Whether it is Kihika, Lusaka or former Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, they still have a duty to respond to audit queries raised in their personal capacity. We will call them because we have constitutional powers to summon anybody.”
The Homa Bay Senator put the auditor general on the spot for breaking the law by delaying to release audit reports for Senate to scrutinize and hold culpable public servants accountable.
“We received the 2015-16 audit reports in December; therefore we are one year behind. This is unacceptable and the auditor general will have to tell us challenges he faces in beating the constitutional timelines,” Kajwang said.
Article 229 of Constitution and the Public Audit Act require the auditor to release the reports to Parliament after six months of closure of the financial year for MPs to scrutinize within three months and write a report.
The County Public Accounts and Investment committee chair stated that they need to work closely with Ouko’s office in terms of building capacity for auditors to do proper auditing and release reports on time.
“If he is fully convinced that there is need to amend the constitutional audit timelines, it should be put on the table,” Kajwang said.
He pointed out that Senate should also reinstate House committee on Implementation to ensure all resolutions members make in terms of recommendations are quickly and fully acted upon by relevant government agencies.
Kajwang disclosed that Senate had many challenges with investigating agencies such as the DPP’s office, EACC and CID in the last Parliament on acting on recommendations forwarded to them.
“We are sure the DPP will have new leadership, DCI already has new leadership and we will engage with them so that once Parliament makes a recommendation they act immediately,” he said.