NAIROBI: Anne Waiguru, who until Saturday served as the Devolution Cabinet Secretary, has finally bowed to public pressure to resign.
But she was categorical that her resignation was not in any way an admission of guilt for the loss of Sh790 million by the National Youth Service (NYS). Ms Waiguru said she resigned on medical grounds, on the advice of her doctor.
Clad in a black dress with white polka dots and a pink blazer, the former CS faced the cameras and declared that she had asked her boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, to relieve her of her duties.
"I have therefore, following my doctor's advice, requested the President to relieve me of my responsibilities and, should he find it fit, to accord me such lighter duties as he shall deem appropriate," she told a the Press in the ministry's boardroom in Harambee House, Nairobi.
Waiguru becomes the first Cabinet Secretary to resign in the Jubilee government. She said her decision to quit the docket was founded on "devastating effects" that the corruption allegations have had on her children and health.
"In view of the impact these events have had on my health, I have been advised by my doctor to take time off to recover and to undertake much lighter duties for some time," said Waiguru.
The former CS was flanked by her doctor, Charles Kariuki, an interventional cardiologist, and Abdikadir Mohammed who is President Uhuru Kenyatta's adviser on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The presence of the Ppresident's adviser at the press conference was an indicator that she had received the nod to quit from State House.
In a soft, brittle voice, Waiguru kept sneaking glances at the cameras but her eyes mostly dwelt on the five-page statement. And when she was done, she quickly and quietly left the room, snubbing questions from journalists who sought to clarify among other things what she meant by "light duties."
The former CS, who has stayed put for months in the face of pressure to resign or step aside, had survived three impeachment attempts in the National Assembly.
She was thrown into the eye of a storm following revelations that the NYS, which falls under Devolution Ministry, had lost Sh791 million in unclear circumstances. However, she maintained her innocence despite admitting that mistakes were made and money lost in her ministry.
"I sincerely regret these occurrences (improprieties in the Ministry of Devolution) and trust that the relevant government agencies will conclude their investigations and bring these matters to a speedy conclusion," she said.
Waiguru said that since her appointment in May 2013, she has had tremendous achievements in her ministry through transformative and innovative programmes like Huduma Centres.
But against the backdrop of these accomplishments that saw her ministry bag 13 awards, including first position among Commonwealth countries for Women Empowerment that was won last week, integrity and transparency questions from the public turned her time in public service into a nightmare.
Deemed as a powerful and highly influential female CS, Waiguru claimed that there was an organised attack from "misinformed and mischievous parties" who hid under the fight against corruption to intimidate, harass and discredit her profession and integrity.
"Some politicians with dubious characters and a litany of misconduct allegations also joined the fray to achieve nefarious intentions. Even where facts point to culpability by other parties, the attacks have continues unabated," she said.
The former CS explained that her situation was a case of political attack that saw focus shift from real purveyors of graft to assassination of her character.
"This should not come as a surprise to anyone who cares to understand how corruption networks, their underwriters and patrons operate. The whole experience has caused a lot of pain to me and my family," said Waiguru.
The former CS is vacating office at a time when she has filed a defamation case in court against CORD leader Raila Odinga who claimed that President Kenyatta had omitted her name from the list of shame that led to the stepping aside of five Cabinet Secretaries. Machakos Senator Johnston Muthama also received hate speech sermon for using what was deemed as libelous language to question why the President had retained her in the ministry. Despite the pressure to resign from across the political divide, including impeachment motions sponsored by URP's Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, she had vowed to soldier on in public service. Waiguru, who rose from the position of Director of Integrated Financial Management and Information System at the former Ministry of Finance, said her record in both the private and public service was clean.
"I have never had any question raised about my profession or personal ethics, integrity or ability to deliver on my responsibilities no matter how complex they may be," she said.
Her surprise exit also comes at a time when Planning Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti and NYS Director General Nelson Githinji have appeared in court on charges related to the NYS scandal. She was listed as a State witness in the cases in court.
She did not say if she would continue to be a State witness. Instead, she said that she was delighted that the investigative and prosecutorial agencies are "bringing to light the persons actually responsible." While wishing the team at the ministry a happy stay, she added that she was looking forward to completion of investigations.
"I wish the team at the ministry the very best as they continue to steer their departments to greater heights in the service of this great nation. God bless Kenya. Thank you."
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