State to spend Sh100m on Ruto ICC trip

By: PATRICK LANGAT

The Kenyan taxpayer will fork out an estimated Sh100 million to finance the government delegation to the nine-day Assembly of State Parties meeting in The Hague.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale told Saturday Nation Parliament has taken care of the expenses of 22 MPs and seven senators.

The Kenyan delegation is composed of at least 60 people.

Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed and her Defence counterpart Raychelle Omamo are leading the team that also includes solicitor-general Njee Muturi.

Mr Duale said the MPs were picked from the defence, legal and delegated legislation committees of the National Assembly as well as representatives from the Senate.

However, the number of MPs at the Hague could be more as others are travelling on their own.

Questions are being raised on why such a big delegation was going yet most of them will not address the conference.

This came after Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich banned what he termed non-essential foreign trips because of the cash crunch facing the government.

Calculations by the Saturday Nation showed that the 29 MPs will use at least Sh12 million for the return air tickets alone.

Assuming that all the other 31 officials use business class seats, whose cost various travel agents estimated at Sh420,000, Kenyans will pay a total of Sh25.2 million for the return air tickets only.

Public Accounts Committee Chairman Nicholas Gumbo confirmed that if the trip was considered official House business, all the 29 MPs will be on business class.

SCRITINIZING TRIP

The team that landed on Tuesday will be housed in The Hague, the town that hosts the International Criminal Court until Thursday when the meeting meeting ends.

Resolutions are usually made on the last day of the meeting.

Average hotel rates in The Hague, Netherlands, range from Sh20,000 to Sh50,000 a night.

Were the 60-member delegation to stay in a hotel averaging Sh40,000 a night for nine nights, taxpayers will pay Sh21.6 million for their accommodation.

In January, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission pegged MPs’ out-of-pocket allowance at $1,010 (Sh103, 020 at 102 exchange rate) for Switzerland.

Assuming the same rate applies in The Hague, the MPs will, in their nine days’ stay, rake in a total of Sh55.7 million.

If the other officials average a modest Sh40,000 per diem allowance, the figure will rise to Sh67 million.

“Our stay is fully funded by Parliament, like all the other international trips that MPs go to. We are here because we have an agenda as Parliament and which we intend to present to the assembly. Taxpayers pay our salaries and help us accomplish our function, and in this case the meeting is one of them,” Mr Duale said.

Mr Gumbo, who termed our calculation “reasonable”, said: “If it is confirmed Parliament footed the bills, my committee will ask the Auditor General to scrutinise this trip to get the value for our money.”

Kenya is challenging an ICC move to allow the prosecution to use recanted evidence in crimes against humanity case facing Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang’.

The case relates to the 2007/2008 post-election violence where at least 1,133 people were killed and 600,000 others displaced.

ALTERING RULE 68

In the ongoing meeting, Kenya wants the ASP, the political and legislative arm of the ICC, to change Rule 68 which allows use of recanted evidence.

It argues when the rule was amended in November 2013, there was an agreement it will not be used in the ongoing case against Mr Ruto.

“We want the court’s oversight, the ASP, to pronounce itself on this matter. No law anywhere in the world is applied retroactively and to the detriment of any party in a proceeding,” said Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who is also in The Hague.

Kenya also wants the ASP to discuss a petition by Pokot South MP David Pkosing, which has been signed by 190 MPs.

In the petition, Kenya wants a panel of five independent jurists to audit and report within six months on the collection and identification of prosecution witnesses in the Ruto-Sang case.

Pressed to explain why use of taxpayers’ money to attend the meeting, Mr Duale retorted: “What taxpayers’ money are you talking about? We are doing Parliament work. Have you asked who sponsored the civil societies who are here?”

Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o and former Subukia MP Koigi Wamwere termed the trip a waste of public funds.

But nominated senator Beth Mugo claimed the MPs were in The Hague on their own. Civil societies are opposed to Kenya’s agenda in The Hague.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION