GOVERNOR 01 UNDER FIRE

Civil society wants Joho impeached over graft

Lobbies say feud between executive and assembly has exposed corruption

In Summary

• Groups say corruption and incompetence should be dealt with

• County communications director Richard Chacha rubbishes allegations, terms activists busybodies

Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho
INCOMPETENT? Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho
Image: FILE

Civil society organisations in Mombasa have called for the impeachment of Governor Hassan Joho for presiding over a "bandit administration".

Muhuri, Pamoja Trust, Kituo cha Sheria and Local Empowerment for Good Governance (Lenggo)  say the feud between the executive and county assembly has lifted the lid on massive graft and mismanagement on Joho’s watch.

Under the banner of Mombasa Governance Network, the lobbies are calling for investigations by relevant government agencies.

The EACC, Controller of Budget, the DCI and the Ombudsman should constitute a multi-agency team to conduct a comprehensive forensic audit of the county’s projects and punish all officials found culpable of flouting procurement regulations.

The lobbies read out a joint statement  yesterday at Kituo cha Sheria offices.

Lenggo executive director Lucas Fondo said Mombasa MCAs should tackle the problem of corruption and incompetence once and for all by impeaching the governor.

“We commend the recent impeachment of the Transport executive over incompetence and gross misconduct but we want MCAs to embark on the frenzy that morphed into his impeachment by investigating the lost millions and why the governor has been working so hard to defend his officers,” Fondo.

He said the root cause of the impeachment was a damning report tabled at the county assembly on a street lighting project which indicated Sh181 million was spent to erect 2000 street lights when ionly 200 lights had been erected.

The civil society groups said an attempt by the assembly’s Transport committee to probe Tawfiq Balala over the matter was not successful as Balala declined to appear before the committee.

The governor came out defending him against what he called intimidation of his executives.

But in a swift rejoinder, county communications director Richard Chacha rubbished the allegations and termed the activists as busybodies involved in an exercise in futility.

He said there are clearly defined procedures for the county to respond to audit queries as raised by Auditor General, which the county has dutifully done over the years.

“We have always appeared before the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee whenever called upon to shed light on various audit queries, but we cannot respond to all manner of kangaroo barazas demanding answers to one audit query or another,” he said.    

“There are clear channels of addressing what is deemed as excesses by the county government. Remember, we are operating under the law and we have to follow procedures as provided by the law.”

On the rift between the county executive and the assembly, Chacha explained that Governor Joho earlier appeared before Senate Committee on Devolution where he exonerated himself from the accusations of being behind the petition to dissolve the county assembly.  

The civil society groups called for respect of county assemblies and condemned efforts by a lobby collecting signatures to petition for the dissolution of the county government.

“Any discerning Kenyan can tell that the activities of Operesheni Fagia Bunge, which calls for the dissolution of the county government, is the work of the governor’s hatchet men intending to intimidate and instill fear in the MCAs not to press with their new-found courage to undertake their oversight role,” Fondo said. 

Zedekiah Adika, an advocate at Kituo cha Sheria, said democracy is under attack in Kenya as both the county and national assemblies which represent the people’s voices are being stifled.

He condemned a recent High Court ruling in Bungoma that declared as unconstitutional Section 40 (3) of the County Governments Act, which empowers MCAs to impeach county executives.

Adika said if the ruling will not be challenged then the assemblies will die.

Ketta Ayoo of Pamoja Trust said audit reports from the Auditor General are enough evidence of why Joho’s administration should be investigated for failing to properly account for public resources entrusted to him and his executives.

Ayoo said the county’s lack of an updated asset register puts at risk public assets. The audit report shows suppliers are still holding log books for vehicles bought by the county government at a value of  Sh195 million.

Quoting sections of the audit report for financial year 2016-2017, the group questioned why the county government deviated from its key priority areas and allocated the lion’s share to the Transport and Infrastructure docket which, according to the group, was not as critical as Health and Water.

“What this means is that there is a real possibility that this department is a conduit for corruption. The huge allocations were directed here contrary to fiscal priorities and further directly procured firms were awarded contracts lending credence to accusations that the CECM Transport could have given work to relatives and members of the executive as it was said of the street lighting project,” the lobbies' statement read.