ANTI-GRAFT WAR

Why Waititu faces fresh charges over 'Kaa Sober' scheme

Governor and Wife already in court over separate case

In Summary

• The programme has been termed as ineffective, wasteful and unsustainable.

• EACC has quietly grilled top officials in the Waititu administration, compounding trouble for the governor already being tried for Sh588 million corruption case.

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu in court.
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu in court.
Image: REUTERS

Embattled Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu is staring at a second graft charge as detectives finalise probing a controversial rehabilitation project dubbed Kaa Sober that has gobbled up Sh1 billion.

The Star has learnt that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has quietly grilled top officials in the Waititu administration, compounding trouble for the governor already being tried for Sh588 million corruption case.

EACC detectives have also visited several wards in Kiambu County, focusing on the number of beneficiaries.

 

A second charge could be a political knockout for Waititu, a key political pillar in Central Kenya to Deputy President William Ruto.

He has already been barred from accessing his office by the trial court.

On Tuesday, EACC spokesman Yassin Amaro confirmed to the Star that the complex investigations were at its tail-end.

“Several people who had been directly linked to the programme were summoned and interrogated. The investigations are at an advanced stage,” Amaro said.

Waititu has been grappling with allegations of massive looting in his county and using the said spoils to spruce up his lifestyle, mostly through acquisition of properties, including hotels.

PROBE

Several people who had been directly linked to the programme were summoned and interrogated. The investigations are at an advanced stage

The EACC money trail, for instance, shows that part of the Sh221.5 million already paid out in the irregular Sh588 million tender was deposited in accounts registered under the governor’s businesses.

The Kaa Sober project was started in February 2018 but there has been controversy over the number of beneficiaries. It allegedly had many loopholes for looting.

 
 

Initially, Waititu said there were 6,500 beneficiaries who were paid Sh400 daily for doing menial jobs. This amounted to over Sh2 million per day.

Some local leaders, among them Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi and Woman Representative Gathoni Wa Muchomba, doubted the number of beneficiaries, arguing that the figure was exaggerated to facilitate fraud, especially after the governor kept flip-flopping on the figures.

Waititu, in his state of the county address on May 11, 2018, said the number was 4,000.

Hardly 15 days later, during a function officiated by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, he raised the number to 5,000,

The payments were made every evening through ward reps or selected administrators who would collect cash from the county office and hand it to the beneficiaries.

The money was drawn in the name of paying casuals or allowances for officials and was never approved by the Controller of Budget as required by law.

Similarly, there were no documents given to the beneficiaries to confirm receipt of the cash and as proof of payment.

The governor bowed to pressure and halted the anti-alcoholism campaign indefinitely on February 26, 2019, a year after it was launched. The beneficiaries were paid Sh101.5 million send-off package with each pocketing Sh20,000.

Kaa Sober opponents dismissed it as ineffective, wasteful and unsustainable with some saying it was a fertile ground for corruption to thrive.

Auditor General Edward Ouko also poked holes in the use of the money. He found no documentation to support the numerous expenditures incurred under the programme, sparking speculation that Kaa Sober could have been a cash cow.

Ouko audited the financial books of the Kiambu County Alcoholic Drinks Control Fund for the year ending June 30, 2018, and pointed out that details of the beneficiaries, payment voucher numbers and item descriptions were lacking.

This was in regards to vouchers posted in cash books as evidence of expenditure of Sh105,207,560 channelled towards the programme. Ouko further said payments of Sh6,441,818 posted in the cash book were not supported by documentary evidence

Payments were not supported with adequate payment details of the recipients, thus, the auditor could not confirm the propriety of the expenditure.

Local leaders and the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse had doubted the programme’s effectiveness and sustainability.

 Many said it was an avenue for theft and a breeding ground for a political militia.

On July 29, Waititu was arraigned in court alongside his wife Susan Wangari, county officials and directors of the company that won a roads construction tender.

The case has turned into a nightmare for Waititu after he was barred from his office.