Henry Kosgey, one of the longest serving MPs in the current Parliament, sat pensively as his trial for abuse of office kicked off at the Anti-Corruption Court.
As many as 20 witnesses were lined up for his case where the former Industrialisation Minister faces 12 counts of abuse of office.
The Tinderet MP was first arraigned in court on January 4, and consequently offered to step aside as minister to pave the way for investigations and determination of the case.
Mr Kosgey is understood to have acted in the absence of a policy guideline regulating the importation of vehicles, and one was only developed at a later stage.
Yesterday, special prosecutor, Mr Patrick Kiage said they would be bringing before court evidence from more than 20 witnesses in a bid to prove the minister did not seek or obtain the advise of the National Standards Council (NSC) before allowing the exemptions for cars exceeding lawfully stipulated import regulations.
NSC is a body whose role is to guide Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) in ensuring that quality standards are set and maintained throughout the country.
Kiage said the power donated by the law to the minister had to be applied and exercised within clear parameters.
“He could only exempt any vehicle from the application of Kenya Standards only if he first obtained advice of the NSC, and even after getting such advice, he would need to go further to be satisfied it would be in the national interest to do so,” Kiage said.
It will be the prosecution’s case that not once did Kosgey seek or obtain advice of the NSC, and that during that period, there was a flood of used motor vehicles and the left-hand-drive models.
On the 12 counts of abuse of office, the former minister is alleged to have allowed three companies and three individuals to import 123 vehicles that aged over eight years.
Yesterday, the chairman of the NSC Dr Joseph Karanja Thiong’o told Principal Magistrate, Mr Elijah Obaga that the law required the minister to first seek NSC’s advice before allowing the exemptions.
The witness said being the NSC chairman, he wrote to Kosgey concerning “exemption of left hand and aged vehicles.”
Granting of waivers
“The role of NSC is to advise you so that you can judiciously make decisions on the above subject. The problem is exemption bypassing the council and coming directly to you,” the letter read in part.
He added that he did not receive any reply to his letter, and later they discussed the matter and the NSC resolved the management develop a policy on granting of waivers, and the same be presented to the finance committee for discussion.
A draft policy on the granting of waivers was thereafter developed, and was to be used in the interim period to address the issue of waivers pending approval of the final one.
According to the witness, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has a limit on the vehicles to come into the country.
The court heard that in July 2010, the then acting Kebs Managing Director, Mr Joel Kioko reported that the Commissioner-General of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) had complained concerning exemptions of motor vehicles.
Thiong’o testified that there was an exchange of letters between Industrialisation PS Karanja Kibicho over the alleged exemptions.
While being led in his evidence-in-chief by Kiage, the witness said he noted a misunderstanding of the law, and sought to put the record straight.
“I felt the minister was not being advised according to the law, and I therefore sought to put the record straight by writing a letter to the minister on that issue,” said Thiong’o, who is also a lecturer and a researcher at Kenyatta University.
The MP is accused of having exempted four vehicles imported by Mr Hussein Mohamed of Lagdera Technologies in November last year from the eight-year requirement.
It is further alleged he extended similar benefit between February an June last year to Simon Maina Kamau for importation of two vehicles, Mr Lawrence Karanja Waweru one vehicle, car dealers Yuasa International 42, Pakens International 51, Al Pacific 16 and Bangal Cars seven.
The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission claims he gave the exemption without the advice of the NSC, and without satisfying himself that it was in the national interest to do so.
Thiong’o, while being cross-examined by Kosgey’s advocate, Mr Julius Kemboy, admitted that the alleged offences occurred before he wrote the minister a letter on the alleged exemptions.
NSC had also not deliberated on guidelines as far as the exemptions are concerned, he said.
It also emerged that since 2005, Kosgey received waivers and that nothing stopped NSC from deliberating on the same.
He said the waiver was just one of the requirements for allowing the aged vehicles into the country.
By writing the letter to the minister, he did so in his capacity as chairman of the NSC. The members of the council, the court heard, include PS Ministry of Industrialisation and PS Treasury, among others.
“The chairman is supposed to do the sort of thing that I had done,” said Thiong’o.
Hearing continues today.
Article by By Judy Ogutu.