Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grand Regency Hotel: A Failed Policy and Ignorance Kenyans Cannot Afford.

As we follow the reports about the sale and the deals that preceded the sale of Grand Regency Hotel, I would like to mention a few things that we should keep in mind. First, many assets, the likes of a house, a building or land never devalues over time. Secondly, in a democratic and even on rare cases not so democratic regimes, government business usually follow an ethical organized open and planned course, to merit the values that it holds itself to. Last but not least, the government’s representative and employees that ignore the required code of conduct while performing their duties do not only get dismissed but also have to be held responsible for their action.
There are issues that that have surfaced since the hotel came into the limelight. Most importantly, there are even more troubling revelations as we begin to sort out the nitty gritty details on how the hotel was sold, to whom it was sold to, who actually made the deals, why other pertinent partners of such a transaction were left in the cold, and most importantly why the standing orders from the parliamentary committee were ignored.
Grand regency hotel was basically built on a loan that was extended by the central bank to the grand thief Pattni. Since it has been established that it was all under the Goldenberg scandal, I will as well characterize and put in a layman’s language as stolen public funds. This is a fact agreed on by all that have followed and handle this case. It is very troubling to us that the he (Pattni) struck a deal to surrender the hotel to the government (who ever that is) in exchange of his freedom and dissolution of his pending cases. In other words reward a thief, a special kind of thief that did not only steal from the public but from the people who are warming up to him now, the government. Of all the cases that I have followed anywhere in the world, that involve scandal of this nature, every one of them has ended up in jail for a good number of years, as well as paying back all the owed money and fines. But I guess, in Kenya, we tend to treat our cases special, so special that the bad guys double up as good guys too. It makes you wonder why? The first question I would raise at this juncture is why isn’t Pattni in jail? Is he free because there are so many strings attached that if one was to break, it would set up an effect that would sweep some people from below their feet, and if so, who are these people? Are they trying to cover for themselves, could it be because they are highly ranked person in the system.
The manner in which the sale of the hotel was done has really raised my hair. The value at which the property sold was way undervalued it is ridiculous. As I mentioned above about what we need to keep in mind, it makes absolutely no sense that property that was worth at least 2 billion dollars fifteen years ago could sell for a mere 2.9 billion. Mr. Kimunya wants to convince us that that was what it was worth by telling us that it had been appraised at about that value by three different appraisers, well one thing was missing, why didn’t he mention who were those appraisers, who hired them, the central bank, who supposedly assumed the ownership of the property? Was ever there an independent appraiser, as it was considered public property? The answer will probably be NO. I could not in anyway be convinced that even if the value of that property had not gained a single cent, the mere fact that our currency has lost a lot of muscle, warrantees at least twice the amount used to finance the building of such an establishment. I will take a guess right now and say, who ever the appraisers were; they all went in knowing what was expected out of them. This is not Greek to us. We understand how business is done in Kenya.
As I take another perspective to this issue, I want address the speed and secrecy upon which the property was sold. It took the ministry if Lands minister, someone who was supposed to be in the mix, for us to know that the property had been sold. Even the Attorney General was out in the cold. After Kimunya repeatedly denied about the sale of the property, he is now quoted as saying that yes indeed it was sold. This matter was in no way a matter that its revelation would endanger anybodies life, it was in no way a matter of national security, and to treat it as classified information is bologna. By the way who else deals with classified information better that the Attorney General?
Kimunya has not only lied, denied all what everybody believed to be true at the time, but has allowed the back door business back in the system. Him together with CBK governor, have actually taken matters onto their own hands, and with their own decisions, which are in no way representative to those of their perspective dockets, sold the property. If this was in the USA for example, it would have been treated as misuse of the office, misuse of power and ranks upon which they are appointed to, misleading the public, lying under oath and misusing public funds. They would have already been dismissed from office, they would be looking at congressional investigation that would at least open up the loop holes which I belief exist, and would eventually serve at least 7 years in a federal prison. But again, it is only in Kenya where all these things are not possible.
Why did Kimunya defy the orders of a parliamentary committee and sold the property anyways. Does he really understand what that committee is capable of? Or he just knows that the committee has no teeth to bite, but can still bark. Is he part of that group that has taken the teeth out of the committee? It is absolutely nonsensical, and insulting to our intelligence to see a full minister doing business like it is on a Sunday afternoon at the market. We need to hold these people accountable, and it starts with the committees being tough. Make your hearings open to public and put all these business on the street, that way, they will be at least ashamed.
Now let us talk about who the property was sold to. I know as well you do that Libya is on the short list of those not so very friendly countries. We even did not have diplomatic with them until a few months ago. We have gone from being not so friendly and suspicious of each other to all of a sudden business partners. This government came into power almost six years ago. Why is it that we established diplomatic relationship with Libya only last year and now we learn that a special hotel, usually reserved for visiting presidents is sold to them. The reports on the newspapers put President Kibaki and Gadaffi very close to these transactions, which are surprising enough. I am the only one who seems to get more suspicious the more I learn about this? This is was a pubic property as it was build with public funds. The least that should have happened to it was to be retained by the state, developed and sustained under ministry of tourism. That hotel would have generated enough income to pay all its debt back, before it being sold to a Kenyan, not and outsider, and it should have been done in a proper way, which I will tell those who sold it through the highest bidder.
Kenyans need to understand the implication we are being put into when we do business with countries like Libya, and especially regimes that have been labeled not so very well by the outside world. We need to thread the waters very carefully. For now, all we know is that as a result of this deal, the public lost about 7 billion dollars, the Libyans who bought the property will be making millions, Pattni just bought his freedom, and most disturbing is the fact nothing will be done to hold anybody accountable.
Of all the three core values that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, none of them was adhered to. To the dismay of all Kenyans, it seems that Kimunya and parties involved in this deal know something they do not what the rest of to know. My speculation is, years down the road, when they will be retired from office, they will be receiving a big fat check for their retirement from their business friends and none of us will know about. May be that is why the haste to sell. Someone proof me wrong!
Philemon K. Kirui