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STATE OF THE NATION SPEECH

Panic hits Cabinet as Uhuru's address draws near

President has already set the tempo of his anti-graft crusade and pledged that even his closest political allies will not be spared in the purge

In Summary

• At least six CS have been grilled for various graft scandals.

• DPP Noordin Haji says nearly all 21 ministries are under probe.

President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers his State of the Nation Address at Parliament Buildings, Nairobi.
President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers his State of the Nation Address at Parliament Buildings, Nairobi.
Image: PSCU

Cabinet and Principal secretaries have panicked following reports that President Uhuru Kenyatta is due to announce radical measures on Thursday to energise the war on corruption.

It is understood that the President has been toying with the idea of asking all CSs and PSs mentioned in corruption investigations to vacate office. 

In 2015, the President used the State of Nation address to present names of 200 people who had been charged with corruption and abuse of office or were under investigation.

 

The President asked all those mentioned, including CSs and heads of parastatals, to step aside.

Yesterday ministers were worried that the President could do the same when he addresses MPs.

"There is no much business going on in government because most of us and other senior government officials do not know if we will get fired tomorrow. I have already packed my things just in case I'm asked to step aside," said a CS linked to one of the high-profile scandals.

Uhuru has already set the tempo of his anti-graft crusade and pledged that even his closest political allies will not be spared in the purge.

His declaration rattled Deputy President William Ruto and his allies, who have insisted that the fight against graft lacks integrity and is targetted at the DP.

But Kenya Human Rights Commission executive director George Kegoro is of the opinion the address will not change much. 

“Kenyatta's ability to translate promises to action is low. This means the State of the Nation address is no longer important and this could be another occasion to just talk but with nothing tangible going forward,” he told the Star.

 
 

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji says nearly all the 21 ministries are under investigation.

 

Yesterday, a number of MPs from across the political divide said Uhuru set the precedent in 2015 and urged him to build on it.

Although their culpability is yet to be known, detectives from the DCI and EACC have questioned unprecedented high numbers of high-profile state officers.

They include at least five CS and several principal secretaries as well as heads of parastatals.

The CSs include Henry Rotich (Treasury), Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), Adan Mohammed (EAC) and Peter Munya (Industrialisation).

We expect the axe to fall. We want heads to roll. The President, therefore, should give us a clear roadmap by asking those implicated to vacate office. He should tell us how and when he will recover the looted cash.
Vihiga Senator, George Khaniri

The five have been questioned in regard to the Sh21 billion Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal.

Also questioned over the dams issue are PSs Kamau Thugge and Margaret Mwakima.

Tourism CS Najib Balala has separately been questioned in regards to Sh100 million contracts awarded to a US tour firm.

A Sh4.8 billion prisons probe has reportedly implicated top government officials.

Post Training and Skills Development PS Alfred Cheruiyot, who signed the deal, is among top officers who have been questioned.

MPs from across the political divide say heads must roll for Uhuru’s crusade to be taken seriously.

George Khaniri (Vihiga senator), Rose Nyamunga (nominated senator), MPs Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay MP), Purity Ngirici (Kirinyaga), Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town MP), Francis Kimani (Molo) and Rosa Buyu (Kisumu MP) said the President must crack the whip

Khaniri said Kenyans are no longer excited by warnings and agitations

“A lot of public funds have been lost and looted. Those who loot keep flaunting around buying houses, stashing cash in their houses and in harambee frenzy,” he said.

Ngirici, who also chairs Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa), said the President should not mince his words during the State of the Nation address. She said he should instead sack all his CSs whose ministries are dogged by corruption.

“The fight against corruption is in top gear and the best the President can do to the nation is keeping to the path and that is to release all Cabinet Secretaries linked to corruption and corrupt practices on or before the State of the Nation address,” Kaluma said.

Molo MP Kimani said however asking CSs to step aside without recovering the loot is not enough. “We don’t want to see the President just asking that CS leave office, how then will we recover billions that have been lost?” the legislator said.

Nominated senator Rose Nyamunga said, “He [President] also needs to downplay the ongoing politicisation of the war on corruption and instead build on the goodwill created by the handshake to bring culprits to book. As leaders, we support the President in his Big Four agenda and expect him to be firm on those hell-bent to derail it.” 

Apart from dismissing the corrupt within its ranks, Buyu said the government must also lay down steps it has taken to curb corruption.

PRESIDENT'S PRECEDENCE

In 2015 during a similar address in Parliament, Uhuru tabled 175 names of top civil servants, including five CSs whom he asked to step aside

Those kicked out at the time were Michael Kamau (Transport), Charity Ngilu (Land), Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Davis Chirchir (Energy) and Kazungu Kambi (Labour).

Prof Naituli, a management and leadership lecturer, said the address should emphasise on accountability, irrespective of political or ethnic persuasions.

“We have made some progress but the heist and looting of national assets that is going in both in the national and county governments mean there is a problem at the top which he should correct,” he said.

“He needs to tell us how he will rein in this theft as well as openly disclose all the contracts the government has entered into for transparency and ease of accountability.” 

Lawyer Donald Kipkorir wants the President to only dwell on corruption in his address.

When public money is lost or stolen, suspected looters should be pursued, arrested prosecuted and their assets seized, he said.

“All future public projects contracts be published with full names of the signatories within seven days of execution of the contracts and all past public projects contracts be made public within 14 days,” Kipkorir posted on Twitter.

He called for protection of the DCI and DPP from political cannibalism.

“Outlaw all fundraising. Anyone wanting to hold [one] has to get exemption from the Interior CS [after] giving reasons for the fundraiser. List of all contribution and the amounts donated in all the fundraising be sent to KRA and FRC,” Kipkorir added.