Parliament has commenced contempt proceedings against Nakumatt supermarket chain chief executive Atul Shah following a dispute over the construction of Hazina Trade Centre by the public pensions provider, National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
The National Assembly’s Public Investments Committee (PIC) took the unprecedented decision after declaring Mr Shah a hostile witness.
PIC chairman Adan Keynan ruled that Mr Shah was in contempt of Parliament and directed that the National Assembly institutes proceedings in court against the Nakumatt boss.
Mr Shah landed in trouble when he appeared before the House team as directed last week to present his written submissions in the inquiry into the stalled construction of the 36-storey Hazina Trade Centre.
The committee rejected the submission that was jointly signed by Mr Shah and lawyer Manase Mwangi who had been barred from submitting presentations authored by the advocate to PIC.
The declaration of Mr Shah as a hostile witness means that if found guilty he risks a jail term for a period not exceeding one year or a fine of up to Sh2,000 for being contemptuous of Parliament in line with provisions of the outdated National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.
The striking out of Mr Shah’s written submissions from the official records of Parliament also means that the committee will proceed to make its recommendations and findings without Nakumatt’s input.
Mr Keynan, last week barred Mr Shah’s lawyer from addressing the committee after finding him to be in contempt of Parliament for presenting submissions signed by himself and not the Nakumatt CEO.
He also found out that Mr Shah and his advocates had failed to disclose the latest development where the High Court had lifted an order blocking the NSSF from going on with the construction of Hazina.
Nakumatt had moved to court to block its landlord, the NSSF, from putting up the building citing loss of business and exposure of public within the premises and its environs.
Mr Shah said yesterday he jointly signed the submissions with Mr Mwangi because he had been the lawyer on record in the case pitting the supermarket chain against NSSF over Hazina Trade Centre, which houses the Nakumatt Lifestyle branch.
“I apologise for submitting the jointly signed document because I prepared it with my lawyer who has been handling this case from the beginning. I can have the signature of my lawyer struck out and I am ready to testify under oath,” Mr Shah pleaded after Mr Keynan issued the directive.
Mr Keynan accused Mr Shah and his lawyer of being contemptuous of the House directives as agreed to last Thursday.
“This is the fourth time that we have scheduled a meeting with Nakumatt. The first time you did not honour our invitations. The second time you did not turn up, the third time we sent you back to get a written submission owned and signed by you and now you are here admitting you can’t do anything without the express guidance of your external lawyer. We have no choice, we will expunge this document from our records,” he said.