Last Friday’s attempt by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to save face put into serious doubt the willingness of the anti-graft agencies to tackle corruption. In its bid to deflect blame of possible co-option of his officers into the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal, EACC Chairman Philip Kinisu ordered a fresh probe into the scam.
A closer look into the genesis of the theft of Sh791 million points to a multi-agency failure to protect Kenyans from the loss and a well-choreographed attempt to shield the real culprits from prosecution.
In June last year, former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru called a press conference at the ministry where she announced to the nation of an attempted theft of Sh826 million from NYS.
This was after numerous media reports detailed the massive leakages at the NYS. She also continued to say that the country incurred no losses and that she had reported the attempted fraud to the Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for further action. At that moment, Ms Waiguru led the country to believe she was the whistle blower.
In the fullness of time, however, new evidence debunked this whistle blower myth. In fact, it was the Central Bank that raised the initial query on suspicious contract payments through a letter to Family Bank, seeking clarification on payments from NYS.
But, the narrative of Waiguru being the whistle blower stuck, and eventually, the DCI completed an investigation into the scam, named the persons of interest in the loss, and presented it to the Cabinet Secretary.
A list of names was read out and presented to the Press. A report was issued by the DCI recommending arrest and prosecution of those named, who immediately denied any involvement in the scheme. This report was passed to Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Keriako Tobiko.
His verdict? That Waiguru and others previously not questioned must record statements on what they knew about the scandal. The DPP then said many cases of fraud contained in the file fell under the mandate of the EACC and that they should commence an investigation.
“I have therefore directed the EACC be invited to join the prosecution team to participate in the review of the file in order to determine matters falling under its legal mandate,” the DPP stated.
Inflated cost of projects
Meanwhile, investigating teams from different media houses including The Standard were poking holes into what seemed a veneer of a well-oiled narrative.
Was it possible that the Cabinet Secretary was unaware, as she had claimed, of the massive looting?
Minutes from evening meetings in our possession show Waiguru was present and chaired meetings with NYS staff which discussed matters of inflated cost of projects undertaken.
Also, the notion that no money was lost at the agency was quickly dispelled after the Sh791 million loss was unearthed, as well as hundreds of millions of shillings more in inflated contract costs.
As this went on, the Executive remained silent. Jubilee stalwarts defended Waiguru. All the while, evidence detailing the plunder kept creeping out of the woodwork. Elsewhere in government, public servants in similar positions had resigned their posts on flimsier grounds. Public perception was that someone was looking out for Waiguru and there just wasn’t enough political will to slay the corruption monster.
Eventually, public pressure prevailed and on one cloudy Saturday morning, she offered to resign and asked the President to consider her for the now infamous “lighter duties”. A few months later, even as other NYS related court proceedings continued, the EACC, on a Sunday, issued a statement clearing Waiguru of any wrongdoing in the matter. It seemed the monkey on her shoulder had finally let her be.
The cracks that the scandal had created at NYS refused to be smoothed over. More on the scandal crept out of the woodwork with every dawn. More fishy contracts. Elaborate plans to sway investigations. And finally, as a coup de grace the damning sworn affidavit by one Jane Kabura, a former hairdresser and custodian of NYS millions. She has opened the Pandora’s Box.
With the sworn affidavit, the monkey jumped back on Waiguru’s back. And the EACC, on the second asking, has decided to reopen investigations into the NYS scam. Will other previously involved agencies follow suit to finally nail the architects of this massive room of mirrors?