Sunday, July 13, 2008



July 13, 2008
Sunday Nation

There is little doubt that the grand coalition is creaking. There are two assumptions one can make of the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into Amos Kimunya and Grand Regency Hotel and all that.

One is that the authorities want to get to the real bottom of the saga in their own way. The other could be to cast doubt on the findings of the earlier cabinet sub-committee which somehow managed to unravel the whole thing and pinpoint three culprits in one super-productive, heavenly afternoon.

This sub-committee was supposedly a creation of the same government. You have to marvel at the wonders of our grand coalition.

It has been helpfully pointed out that a third function of commissions of inquiry is to create caveats and confusion. The probe on the Artur brothers seemed to have gone nowhere. Chances that the Grand Regency inquiry could end up in similar smoke are not helped by the fate of other more consequential inquiries.

TRUE, THE NUMBER OF EXPERTS and valuers and lawyers and other busybodies who are lining up to testify on this one will be many. Such chaps don’t like being taken for a ride. Genuinely big names, including the so-called culprits and those who unmasked them, are also expected to take the stand.

It is often said that President Kibaki’s penchant for commissions of inquiry is a statement about his weakness. A presidential inclination to act decisively at an early time would have made us avoid getting saddled with things like the Artur Commission, which was simply a waste of time. Most of the other commissions we see now happened because of sins of omission more than of commission.

The blood thirst may have been quenched for now, but only a little as ways are sought to seek where CBK’s and KACC’s culpability lies. As the commission of inquiry was announced, a parliamentary committee was busy getting itself into the investigation. So were the police who were directed to get into the act by the suddenly forthcoming Attorney-General Amos Wako.

ONE ASSUMED THE CABINET SUB-committee’s own investigation ended with its release — to the press or whoever — of its report last week. Apart from the prime minister, the full cabinet has not had the privilege to evaluate the report.

Nor is it clear the President wants to see it. It is impossible to miss the fact that one side of the grand coalition has been given a bloody nose politically, and this has nothing to do with who is greedier or more corrupt than the other.

President Kibaki, who was in Egypt for the African Union summit, obviously seemed to have had no clue when the cabinet sub-committee was formed.

The prime minister’s decision to move rapidly before the other party could collect its wits shows which side can play the political game more effectively. As for Mr Kimunya, one could only shake his head at the man’s naivety when he said he had been promised back-up in Parliament by the prime minister and went there confident the latter was on his way. You wonder how some people made it that high in the political ladder.

In a way, Mr Kimunya’s undoing was having a careless mouth that did not talk straight about what CBK and KACC were up to with the hotel in question. It was the CBK that had the charge on the hotel while it was KACC that induced Mr Kamlesh Pattni to surrender his claim to the property.

I am not sure it was Mr Kimunya’s role or the CBK to inform the A-G, who is piously claiming he was in the dark.

Assuming the probe is conducted diligently and everything brought out, two things are going to happen. Mr Kimunya’s great subterfuge is going to be exposed conclusively. Or somebody will emerge looking like a damn liar, or a fool — or blinded by vendetta.

The Libyans — through their embassy – have already asserted ownership of the Grand Regency. I don’t see what they stand to gain if they are lying.

THE INITIAL ASSUMPTION WAS THAT Mr Kimunya had done a deal in concert with crooked individuals buying the hotel while masquerading like it were the Libyans who bought it.

Other assumptions had been made from the amount of stamp duty paid (which is charged on land and immovables) to jump to the conclusion that the whole sale was only Sh1.8 billion.

The prior rumblings about the valuation of the hotel seem to have disappeared. Only two things remain in contention. Was Grand Regency a public property or was CBK exercising a charge on what was essentially private property? Two, did Mr Kimunya flout the law by allowing CBK to dispose of its charge by private treaty?