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Yes, we erred in clearing Waiguru, admits EACC

By Moses Njagih | Published Thu, March 10th 2016 at 00:00, Updated March 10th 2016 at 08:35 GMT +3
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Philip Kinisu (left) and CEO Halakhe Waqo when they appeared before Parliament's Justice and Legal Affairs Committee yesterday. [PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/standard]

The anti-corruption agency’s initial clearance of Ms Anne Waiguru has come back to haunt it.

Yesterday, the head of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) conceded that the clearance of the former Devolution CS in relation to the Sh791 million National Youth Service scandal, highlighted the confusion within Government institutions.

Chairman Philip Kinisu told Parliament that the clearance was erroneous and a smack in the face of the new EACC commissioners.

"We were caught in the cross hairs and got a baptism of fire. The clearance was one track. We weren't really talking to each other as Government institutions and this is why the Sh791 million has come to haunt us through the various affidavits," said Kinisu yesterday.

He added: "With the affidavits coming up daily, we must now ask ourselves whether we should look at individual transactions or look at the probe holistically."

Kinisu said serious allegations against Waiguru made through an affidavit by one of those charged over the scam forced the commission to begin investigations afresh. The chairman was appearing before Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee

Businesswoman Josephine Kabura filed an affidavit linking Waiguru to the Sh791 million payments, which authorities have said were fraudulently made to the firms.

She also accused the anti-corruption detectives of involvement in a cover-up scheme that involved prosecution of "pawns" to protect big personalities implicated in the scam.

Yesterday, the anti-graft body boss, however, did not divulge details of the alleged breakdown of communication, even as he promised that the commission would soon be giving its recommendations on the fresh round of investigations.

The clearance was through a letter dated February 4 that EACC Chief Executive Officer Halakhe Waqo wrote to the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.

It indicated that their investigation had not established any evidence to warrant adverse recommendation against Waiguru.

Kinisu further revealed that apart from the Sh791 million probe, they were also investigating other procurement irregularities at the NYS totaling over Sh761 million.

The probe includes establishment of NYS camps at Mukuru kwa Njenga, Kiandutu and Korogocho slums at the cost of Sh147,829,315.

Also under probe is a Sh302,458,690 tender for consultancy services for user support services and sensitisation campaigns to enhance access to 30 per cent of Government procurement opportunities for the youth and women.

Other tenders under scrutiny, Kinisu revealed, include that of a training retreat held at Sh4.5 million, supply of training materials in automotive engineering at Sh33.4 million, and supply of cutter grinder accessories procured at Sh58,345,000.

EACC is also questioning the award of contracts for supply of shaping machines and cylindrical grinders, power sheet machines and supply of oven equipment that cost NYS a colossal Sh215 million.

At the same time, EACC, which was giving a status report on the war on corruption to the House committee, revealed that it had frozen assets estimated at about Sh500 million from the suspects in the Sh791 million scandal.

The commission is also searching for more properties suspected to have been purchased with the loot.

Mr Waqo said that from November last year they had moved to freeze the property, including buildings and vehicles.

"It has been a continuous process and we are still going for more. We are now looking for a particular top-of-the-range Range Rover vehicle registered under one of the suspects names and many more assets," Waqo told The Standard after the meeting.

Kinisu said the anti-graft body would audit lifestyles of State officers in a move to heighten the war on runaway graft, as public officials were accumulating unexplained wealth.

Already, the agency is analysing information on some public officials placed under probe.

"We will be profiling institutions where corruption is suspected to thrive and subject officials to lifestyle audits. This is a tool we agreed to roll out within our 100 days in office. It is already frightening many suspects but if you are living within your means and are not involved in corruption, you have no reason worry," said Kinisu.

The EACC chairman said they were also investigating allegations of bribery at the tobacco manufacturer, British American Tobacco (BAT), where opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Moses Wetang'ula and Martha Karua have been mentioned.

"Investigations into these allegations are ongoing...The informant claims that former Prime Minister Raila Odinga wrote to Kenya Revenue Authority to unfreeze the accounts and not collect taxes from Mastermind Tobacco...and that Ms Karua received Sh6 million from BAT through her campaign manager Mary M'Mukindia, to prevent a rival company from supplying KRA with the technology for detecting smuggled cigarettes," said Kinisu in a report to the House team.

On the ongoing 'Chickengate' scandal, Kinisu said they were still analysing documents given to the Government in January by the UK authorities.

The evidence was used to secure the conviction of Smith & Ouzman top officials, who were found to have bribed to secure lucrative contracts with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Kenya National Examinations Council.

EACC said it was also pursuing the repatriation of Sh51 million in fines imposed on the British firm, equivalent to bribes paid to the suspects.