Inside Politics

Azimio MPs reject State plans on parastatals’ sale

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023 07:40 | By
National Assembly Minority Leader and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi (centre) with other Azimio allied legislators address a press conference at Parliament Buildings, yesterday. PD/kenna claude

The Azimio MPs yesterday opposed the Cabinet’s plan to side-step Parliament in approving sale of various parastatals and other State agencies.

The leaders allied to opposition chief Raila Odinga claimed the change of law will give National Treasury and cartels in government unchecked powers to sell institutions some of which are as old as the nation and were put up using tax payers money.

At the same time, Busia senator Okiya Omtatah threatened to move to court to block the Privatisation Bill should it be debated and approved by the National Assembly.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet had approved the Privatisation Bill, 2023, for tabling in the National Assembly.

Omtatah charged that the bill’s proposal to strip Parliament of its constitutionally sanctioned oversight role in the sale of State owned corporations or parastatals must be subjected to a national referendum for approval.

National referendum

Omtatah argued that Article 255 (1h) of the Constitution states that any amendment to the functions of Parliament must be subjected to a national referendum.

“The proposal to strip the State of its assets and hand them over to well-connected individuals in the guise of privatisation is ill-advised and unacceptable. The current extremely transactional parliament, that has failed to distinguish itself from and oversight the Executive, is for all practical purposes an auction house,” said Omtatah.

According to the public litigant, there is need to distinguish ownership from management and that where a state cannot manage its corporations, it should only cede their management to the private sector and not their ownership.

Yesterday, Omtatah charged that if the government cannot manage these strategic corporations, then the solution lies in addressing management as the problem and not ceding ownership to the private sector.

“Whereas privatisation is an important vehicle for the formation of a more rational economic structure, the privatisation of strategic assets should be limited to management, with ownership remaining public,” he said.

Land grab plans

Earlier the Azimio leaders led by National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) and his Senate counterpart Stewart Madzayo (Kilifi) charged that critical public assets are being targeted for sale.

“Azimio does not support that move by the Ruto administration. Let it be on record that when Kenya Kwanza decided to sell Sony Sugar Factory, Muhoroni Sugar, Chemelil, Kibos and Sony Sugar, Azimio said No,” said Wandayi.

He went on: “We will not be part to any plans to sell the ports of Mombasa, Lamu and afilliate Kenya Authority installations in different parts of the country including Kisumu, Busia, Siaya, Homa Bay and Migori.”

 The Azimio lieutenants claimed people in Kenya Kwanza wants to grab pieces of land and buildings across the country.

“The excuse being given is that the institutions being earmarked for sale are struggling financial. We refuse to buy this argument. It is not true that State owned corporations cannot be profitable. Our parastatals are struggling because of mismanagement, tribalism and corruption,” said Wandayi.

Article 95 (2) of the Constitution grants the National Assembly the mandate to deliberate on and resolve the issues of concern to the people.

“We object strongly to the planned sale of these assets especially if it is to be done without the scrutiny of parliament. We will not be party to this grand theft of public assets. If there was a time that members of parliament needed to take a principled position and stand with their people, it is now,” said Wandayi.

He went on: “When top managers are appointed on the basis of tribe as is happening now and not competence, those corporations have to fail. When parastatals are required to deliver money to the Office of the President and State House every Friday to be used to buy political support, such corporations have to fail.”

Azimio luminaries

According to the Azimio luminaries, the proposed sale of parastatals is not meant to revive the institutions, claiming that it is meant to help people in Kenya Kwanza who have formed companies in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

“Those are the people who want to take over our critical assets, make money then sell them further to foreign interests. This discussion has been held on many discreet locations abroad and it is just a matter of time before these institutions go.”

“There is no way Ruto is going to convince Kenyans that he is acting in the best interest of the nation by selling national assets without involving representatives of the people in Parliament.”

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna on his part said that there is no serious decision that can be made by the Cabinet involving the sale of Kenyans asset without the involvement of Parliament.

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