GRAFT WAR

Inside Uhuru's four-year struggle to tame graft

Close to 1,000 individuals have been charged in court over corruption since Uhuru took over power in 2013.

In Summary

• On Monday, Uhuru lost one of his most trusted Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge to the graft war.

• Rotich is the first sitting Cabinet Secretary to be arrested on alleged corruption and the question is whether this will fade off like previous high-profile cases.

Lawyer Kioko Kilukumi consults with other lawyers among them Katwa Kigen when their clients including Treasury CS Henry Rotich were charged on July 23, 2019.
Lawyer Kioko Kilukumi consults with other lawyers among them Katwa Kigen when their clients including Treasury CS Henry Rotich were charged on July 23, 2019.
Image: ENOS TECHE

On March 26, 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta received a standing ovation in Parliament as he tabled the infamous 'List of Shame'.

It was during that year's State of the Nation address that Uhuru ordered the over 100 public officers in the list he tabled to step aside, marking a start to the war on corruption.

Five Cabinet secretaries — Charity Ngilu (Lands), Michael Kamau (Transport), Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Kazungu Kambi (Labour) and Davis Chirchir (Energy) — were forced out of office.

At the moment, it appeared that the graft war would be won as soon as the cases got to court, and that this would deter many from tipping their fingers into public coffers.

On Monday, Uhuru lost one of his most trusted Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge to the graft war. Their arrest and arraignment put Uhuru's fight against corruption under the spotlight yet again.

Rotich is the first sitting Cabinet Secretary to be arrested on alleged corruption and the question is whether this will fade off like previous high-profile cases.

But the latest move by Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji adds to the large pile of corruption cases pending before the courts.

Close to 1,000 suspects have been charged over corruption since Uhuru took over power in 2013. However, Kenyans are still waiting for these cases to be concluded with the Judiciary being put on the spot over their determination.

Among teh CSs who stepped aside following the tabling of the List of Shame,  only former Transport CS Kamau was ever charged. And even for him, Justice John Onyiego in April termed as ambiguous the charge that Kamau failed to stop a Sh33 million tender award for a road in Bungoma.

Ngilu is the Kitui governor, while Koskei is a member of the Judicial Service Commission on the nomination of Uhuru.

Kambi unsuccessfully ran for the Kilifi governor in 2017 and was in 2018 appointed chairman of Coast Development Authority.

Chirchir has not gotten any other government job but was Uhuru’s chief agent in the 2017 presidential poll.

Uhuru's list to Parliament ad six PSs, 12 governors, MPs and parastatal heads – most of whom are still free.

The 2015  list did not do much to deter corrupt practices in Uhuru's administration, as a Sh971 million scandal emerged at the National Youth Service in 2016.

In February 2016, the key suspect the alleged scandal at NYS, Josephine Kabura, implicated among others, former Devolution CS Anne Waiguru in the scam.

Waiguru, who is now Kirinyaga governor, has been fighting to clear her name, especially after EACC revealed that Kabura lied in her affidavit.

Last year, former Devolution PS Peter Mangiti and 23 other suspects had their case dismissed after the prosecution failed to link them to the charges they were facing.

Chief magistrate Kennedy Bidali ruled that for conspiracy to be proved, the prosecution must provide evidence that suspects held a meeting, mooted the idea, and agreed to commit the said offence.

Former Youth PS Lillian Omollo and former NYS director general Richard Ndubai and 35 others were charged in relation to the loss of Sh225 million at NYS. 

The case is still at the prosecution stage with the prosecution calling in witnesses from its list of 43.

As those charged in court saw their cases drag in the corridors of Justice through 2017, Kenya had not witnessed any major arrests until DPP Noordin Haji took over in April of 2018.

Among Haji's big fish catches is Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who was charged with financial impropriety in August last year.

Last month, the DPP was forced to appeal after the High Court ruled that the DCJ will not be prosecuted over corruption and abuse of office charges on grounds that the evidence presented was obtained illegally.

Former Sports CS Hassan Wario and other officials were charged with the Sh55 million Rio scandal and abuse of office. The case was mentioned on Monday.

They are accused of unlawfully authorising payment in excess of Sh15,907,500 as allowances to members of the Kenyan team.

Former Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe, National Cereals and Produce Board MD Newton Terer and former general manager for Finance Cornel Kiprotich were charged with irregular purchase of maize.  The three and five others were charged on August 30, 2018, but their case only started on February 4 this year.

In August last year, National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri and Kenya Railways MD Atanas Maina were charged alongside 16 co-accused with conspiracy to defraud the government of Sh221.3 million.

In April, Swazuri was arrested again after the DPP said he has sufficient evidence to charge the former lands boss and 23 others over compensation claim to Tornado Carriers Limited in respect to compulsory acquisition of land in Mombasa. His case is ongoing.

In July, Kenya Power MD Ken Tarus, his predecessor Ben Chumo and nine senior managers were charged with various offences, including economic crimes, abuse of office and conspiracy to defeat justice in the purchase of substandard transformers worth over Sh409 million.

At Kenya Pipeline Company, a Sh2 billion scandal last year triggered the arrest of former MD Joe Sang, company secretary Gloria Khafafa, supply chain manager Vincent Cheruiyot, infrastructure manager Billy Aseka and procurement manager Nicholas Gitobu.

They are out on a cash bail of Sh2 million each and the prosecution has lined up 33  witnesses.

At the National Health Insurance Fund, it is estimated that close to Sh1 billion might have been stolen in fictitious transactions, the irregular award of tenders and manipulation of systems.

The insurer’s CEO Geoffrey Mwangi and finance director Wilbert Kurgat were arrested on November 23 last year for obstructing investigations.

Haji has also taken political leaders to court, with the most prominent being former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and  Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal.

Lenolkulal’s case went on pre-trial on June 5 and the hearing is set to begin next month.

Kiambu Governor Ferdinard Waititu is yet to be arraigned in court and on July 22, the EACC urged the anti-corruption High Court to dismiss his application challenging his investigation.

Kidero's Sh213 million graft case ongoing and eight witnesses have testified so far.

Other corruption cases before court involve officers at various cadre in both the national and county governments.

 

Edited by Eliud Kibii