Monday February 21, 2005
 
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Minister: ‘Why I won’t quit’

Biketi Kikechi

Finance Minister David Mwiraria
Finance Minister David Mwiraria yesterday declared he would not quit no matter the accusations of corruption levelled against him.

"I’m certainly not going to step aside, because there is no scandal. I will not quit because there is no evidence of anything wrong I have done," said Mwiraria.

The minister, who is on record admitting that he authorised Sh7 billion tenders for procurement of Kenya Police forensic labs and passports for the mysterious Anglo Leasing firm, now claims donors are exploiting divisions in government to influence Kenya’s politics.

Mwiraria called a press conference to defend himself in the wake of increasing demands for his resignation after he was linked to the Anglo Leasing and tax waiver scandals.

He asked his critics to wait for investigations into alleged corrupt deals before declaring him guilty.

Mwiraria has recently been linked to the multi-billion shilling procurement and tender payment scandals, commonly known as Anglo Leasing, at the Office of the President.

Although he admitted that the initial payment to the firm had been wired back into the country, Mwiraria never said who returned the money.

When the public demanded his resignation for appending his signature on the Sh7 billion Anglo Leasing tenders, the minister said he was misled by his Permanent Secretary, Mr Joseph Magari.

Magari has since been sacked and charged in court, along with five other former Permanent Secretaries, over the Anglo Leasing deals.

Three months ago, Mwiraria was again in the news after he granted his Cabinet colleague Peter Ndwiga a Stamp Duty waiver in the purchase of a farm.

He defended his action, saying the law gave him powers to grant the waiver. Mr Ndwiga had told the minister that the farm’s produce would earn the country foreign exchange.

And at the weekend, a tax waiver the minister granted a Mombasa businessman to import foodstuff raised a furore.

Yesterday, however, Mwiraria said the waiver to Rishad Amana of Muslim Youth Organisation was lawfully granted.

He said it was not any different to those granted to USAid, World Food Programme, churches and other relief agencies.

Amana was granted a waiver to import large consignments of food, ostensibly to distribute it to starving people in Coast province.

The Customs and Exercise Act explicitly forbids exemption from duty on rice, maize, wheat and milk, to protect Kenyan farmers from cheap imports.

A written inquiry to the minister and Treasury PS two weeks before publication of the report went unanswered.

Yesterday, Mwiraria said the assessment done by Kenya Food Security Steering Group indicated that three million Kenyans needed food and that was why Muslim Youth Organisation requested to bring in food.

He said MYO was recommended by the Special Programmes Department at the Office of the President, just like any other philanthropic organisations that wished to import food at the time.

The Financial Secretary, Mr Njeru Kirira, said it was not possible for the group to stockpile the food because distribution was monitored.

And Kinyua said dumping was controlled because amounts to be imported were specified before any waiver was granted.

But they could not explain why they did not respond to the inquiry by The Sunday Standard.

Asked how the recent withdrawal of anti-corruption funds by donors had affected the war against graft, Mwiraria said: "I get surprised to hear that donors are withdrawing support in the fight against corruption because we are determined to remove it from the face of Kenya."

He described the donors’ actions as political, and accused them of trying to influence Kenya’s politics.

"People have taken sides because, as you know, we run a divided government," said Mwiraria.

He lamented that a lot of pressure was being put on individuals instead of building institutions that would help to wipe out corruption.

The minister said his team at Treasury had reversed the 1980 and 1990’s situation where about 50 per cent of importers were not paying tax.

 

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