The National Assembly extended the Thursday afternoon session to approve a Sh4.1 billion emergency loan for Kenya Airways and Sh2 billion rights issue to help restructure the country’s biggest sugar miller Mumias Sugar Company.
After a busy day in which the Budget and Appropriations Committee members had a sit-down with the principal secretary of the National Treasury Kamau Thugge, the mood in the House was coloured with politics as Western Kenya MPs made a loyalty pledge to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Jubilee administration for the Sh1 billion bailout given Wednesday. The quest for a rights issue is a gamble because the MPs expect the existing shareholders to sink in more money to raise the Sh2 billion to save the struggling entity that is the lifeline of Western Kenya economy.
Chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee Mutava Musyimi (Mbeere South) said the committee had reviewed its proposals to reject the rights issue for Mumias Sugar. The committee had said that the time left, five days to the close of the financial year, was too short for a successful rights issue but after Uhuru’s visit to Western Kenya and the pleas for more money, they changed their minds and heeded their leader’s call. “There are two companies that are too crucial to this republic. Kenya Airways and Mumias Sugar. Today, KQ is going through a difficult time. We’d like see that board changed and we’d like to see very huge changes there,” said Musyimi.
The approval of the extra Sh200 billion supplementary budget means that the government now can afford the Sh1 billion that the President gave out. The National Treasury PS told The Standard at Parliament buildings earlier in the day that Sh500 million will come from the Sh1.9 billion that had been allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture, while the other Sh500 million will come from the Kenya Sugar Board, under the Sugar Development Levy, as a loan.
Musyimi said the goal was to make sure that the company got sufficient cash to begin the restructuring process. Politics of the day were also not left out because the ODM secretary general Ababu Namwamba (Budalangi) took the chance to warn his colleagues in the opposition not to criticize President Kenyatta for the Sh1 billion loan to Mumias Sugar for paying farmers. “Being a representative of the people of Western Kenya, may it be known that anybody opposed to the bailout be it for cheap political reasons or whatever personal differences, we will declare you an enemy of Western Kenya,” said Namwamba.
The stinging warning targeted ODM’s national chairman John Mbadi (Suba) and Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda) who had questioned why the MPs were bursting the budget ceilings just to kowtow to the wishes of the Executive. Mbadi and Gumbo were among the MPs who backed a declaration that the colossal supplementary budget was way above the ten percent threshold prescribed in the Constitution.
But for Namwamba, the duo had no right.
“We warn them, play your petty politics away from Mumias Sugar Company, away from the economic interests of western Kenya because if you keep doing it we will declare war on you. For us, Mumias is the economic bloodline of the people of Western Kenya. If you want to engage with us, first declare support,” said Namwamba. While other MPs were astounded at a secretary general reading a riot act to his party chairman, and Gumbo, his replacement at the helm of the powerful Public Accounts Committee Namwamba said he feared no one. “On this one, we have no apologies to make and no explanation to give anyone,” said Namwamba. Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) took the cue and told western Kenya leaders that the aim was to save the struggling company. “For the first time, we are saving a region of more than three million people, and the livelihood of people, in a region that is very rich in cane and in votes,” said Duale.
The Majority Leader added: “We want to save Mumias this evening. I am sure the people of Western Kenya when we call you to save miraa, or fish from Homa Bay or even the Kenya Meat Commission, you will be around.” But John Waluke (Sirisia) was more blunt: “Time has come where we must say that we are not going to be used any more. Those using this as a political tool should watch out.” Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem) told the MPs from Western Kenya that the idea was to question the procedure of approval of Bills.
“We should not take questions of procedure to mean opposition. We support!” said Midiwo. President Kenyatta will now have to sign the Bill into law as soon as possible to allow the National Treasury to spend the money so that it does not spill over into the next financial year which begins Wednesday next week.This Article Was First Published In The Standard Digital