Hundreds of high-flying civil servants face the sack after President Uhuru Kenyatta took the unprecedented step of stepping aside all heads of procurement and accounting units for a fresh vetting.
The directive communicated in a circular by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua triggered instant panic in government circles.
It is the first major blow at the heart of corruption and signals the President’s intention to live up to his vow to crack down ruthlessly on graft which has cost the country billions.
All heads of procurement and accounting units are required to hand over to their deputies to pave way for their fresh vetting, which sources said will be rigorous and thorough.
The decision will affect hundreds of civil servants because all ministries, departments and state corporations are affected.
The directive has deftly avoided causing paralysis or interfering with ongoing processes by handing over to their deputies.
"Further to H.E the President's directive during his Madaraka Day Speech, the Office of the Head of Public Service has issued a circular to the entire public service giving guidelines on the fresh vetting for certain categories of public servants," the office of the government spokesman announced yesterday.
Last Friday, Uhuru announced fresh vetting plans for top accounting and procurement officers — complete with polygraph or lie-detector tests — to be carried out by the end of this month.
It will be the first time the Kenya government will be employing such a system to attack the pandemic.
The heads of procurement and accounting units are required to submit a list of their assets, liabilities and previous record of service. Sources say the data — which must be submitted by this Friday — will profile the principle actors in corruption.
By submitting their bio data — such as Personal Identification Numbers for example — the state will be able to trace all the information on the assets of the officers and hold them to account.
Procurement officers were the first to be sent on leave last month when investigations into the NYS scandal commenced.
They, along with their finance counterparts, are believed to be among the wealthiest in the public service despite their moderate pay.
They preside over the contracting and award of tenders in the supply chain management.
In key and strategic departments like Kenya Ports Authority and Kenya Revenue Authority, they are distinct by their lifestyle and wealth.
Despite the tough stance taken by the State, Kinyua has promised that the rights of the officers enshrined in the Constitution will not be violated.
"Whereas the exercise is geared towards determining suitability to continue holding public office in the public trust and promote confidence in the public service, the same will be undertaken in a fair and objective manner," read the statement.
It went on: "H.E the President is committed to creating a public service that serves the needs and aspirations of Kenya without taking undue advantage of their offices to enrich or otherwise benefit themselves."
Inquiries within ministries by the Star last evening revealed that many had panicked amid speculation that some would rather resign that be exposed during the vetting. It was not, however, clear if the directive will apply to the county governments as well.
"How will they explain the big cars they are driving with their meagre salaries? You will see people resigning instead of facing a lifestyle audit," a senior official in government told the Star.
On Monday, the Star exclusively reported that Uhuru is relying on confidential reports prepared by the National Intelligence Service as a new strategy to fight corruption.
The vetting team will rely heavily on the Auditor General’s reports, as a pointer to financial indiscipline during the screening exercise.
The vetting is expected to take no longer than a month, sources said.
The annual reports of the Auditor General Edward routinely expose the procurement mess and financial indiscipline in government.
But their review by oversight bodies hardly yield any sanctions. Among high ranking government officials and politicians today are some whom the Public Accounts Committee has recommended to be barred from holding public office.
Some of the notorious agencies feature annually in the Auditor’s list of shame include the National Social Security Fund, National Irrigation Board, Geothermal Development Corporation, Kenya Pipeline Company and Kenya Airports Authority.
The Ministry of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Health and Transport are also dogged with audit queries.
Initially, Uhuru had announced that officers who fail the vetting exercise would be suspended. He escalated that by adding that when he announced that vetting was just the beginning and other tougher methods were in the offing.
Yesterday's order rekindles memories of the infamous List of Shame that Uhuru tabled in Parliament in March 2015 that led to the sacking of several officers linked to corruption, some of whom were eventually cleared by courts.
Some of the cases crumbled when they took on a political twist with suspects alleging witch-hunt.
However, much water has passed under the bridge, with the Building Bridges Initiative between Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga seen as providing a new enabling political environment to fight corruption.
Both leaders have pledged their commitment to eradicate graft.
"Mr Odinga remains committed to aiding the war on corruption from a wide and common front so as to remove any sanctuary where perpetrators can seek refuge as spelt out in the Building Bridges to the New Kenyan Nation... He agrees that communities and parties don’t steal, only individuals do," Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said on Sunday.
Already, over 30 suspects have been arraigned in court in connection to the NYS scandal. They will be back in court today from remand for the hearing of their application for bail.