by Mercy Mwai
Interior Cabinet secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i’ seemed to have stirred up the hornet’s nest by his no-show yesterday before a parliamentary joint committee probing contraband sugar imports.
And the committee ordered the CS, who for the second successive day had not honoured a date with the members, to appear before it tomorrow without fail.
Members of the Agriculture and Trade committees, after waiting for more than one-and-a-half hours, adjourned their sitting and accused Matiang’i of undermining their work.
They gave him an ultimatum, saying he either appears before them or quits if does not want to cooperate.
The MPs anger came after the joint committee chaired by Kanini Kega finally announced after the long wait that Mataing’i would not appear before them because of other official engagements. In the letter addressed to National Assembly Clerk by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, Matiang’i said he was attending East African Community talks.
“On accounts of the Cabinet Secretary’s active involvement in the ongoing EAC Heads of State summit, he requests deferment of his appearance before the committee. Our earlier letter had stated that the summit was convened for June 26 and 27 on which days the committees sought the CS attendance,” read the letter.
The joint committee on Monday ordered the CS to appear yesterday after he snubbed their earlier meeting without explanation.
But despite the letter, the committee members were furious and demanded that the two joint chairs summon him to appear instead of sending a formal invitation.
MPs Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East) Cornelly Serem (Aldai), Maison Leshomo (Samburu), Daniel Maanzo (Makueni), Ferdinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza), Simba Arati (Dagoretti North), Emanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and Alloys Lentoimaga (Samburu West) accused Matiang’i of undermining the committee’s work.
The MPs argued that having declared that the contraband sugar contained mercury, Matiang’i should have honoured the invitation like his counterparts and substantiate his claims.
In particular, Serem said the matters they were discussing were serious issues and of public interest. Washiali urged the committee to stamp its authority.
“ Dr Matiang’i should be in this Chamber answering member’s question. We must stamp our foot by summoning him as early as possible,” he said.
Wangwe claimed that Matiang’i snubbed member’s invitation without any genuine reason. Lentoimaga claimed that Matiang’i’s claims had prompted retailers to hike sugar price from Sh5,000 per 50kg to Sh7,000.
Earlier, at the Departmental Committee of Administration and National Security meeting, members protested after the CS snubbed a similar invitation to respond to questions by MPs.
The MPs slammed Matiang’i, saying he had snubbed invitations to appear before the committee without giving credible reasons.
MPs Didimus Barasa (Kimilili), Wambugu Ngunjiri (Nyeri town), Martha Wangari (Gilgil), Nimrod Mbai ( Kitui East) and Benson Makali said it was unfortunate that the minister did not appear to take the committee seriously, despite his docket being under it.
Said Barasa: “The CS cannot always claim to be held up when he is required to appear before us. As a committee that approves the budget of his ministry, he should treat us with some respect. He needs to up his game because we pose questions to him on behalf of Kenyans.”
Among the questions Matiang’i was to respond to was one by Wangari requiring him to shed light on the circumstances that led to the shooting dead of a Meru University student leader.