Grand corruption at NYS, Cereals Board and Kenya Pipeline Company spotlight President Uhuru Kenyatta's will, or lack of it, to fight the vice
Reports of multi-billion shilling corruption scandals that could undermine the Jubilee administration's four pillars of growth have turned the spotlight on President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The latest resurgence of theft at the National Youth Service (NYS) and the fraudulent payments for maize supplied to the National Cereals and Produce Board come as his administration is working to lay the ground for affordable housing, manufacturing, universal healthcare and food security that the President hopes will shape his legacy.
However, in the early months of his second and final term in office, the scandals, which have energised public discontent, threaten to erode goodwill as well as scare away potential investors and donors.
Significantly, the fraud schemes have exploded months after similar unresolved scandals such as the Sh1.9 billion NYS scandal that rocked his first term and for which most suspects walked scot free, and the procurement malpractices that exploded at Afya House that were estimated to cost Sh5 billion.
Another subject under parliamentary investigation is the risk of the State pension fund losing Sh6.8 billion through inflated costs for the construction of Hazina Towers, the Sh55.6 billion irregular tendering for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport's new terminal through the Kenya Airports Authority, the Sh8 billion Karen land grab and the single sourced Sh15 billion police CCTV system.
In the case of the Afya House scam, although the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) rushed to collect files, two years later investigations have not been concluded.
It is the same case with the controversial Sh250 billion Eurobond of 2014 after the State frustrated Auditor General Edward Ouko's attempts to audit the proceeds. President Kenyatta at one time scoffed at Mr Ouko for questioning the transaction.
Although it has not yet been established exactly how much was lost in the latest NYS scam, reports indicate that Sh8.8 billion was paid to suppliers. Investigators are combing through documents to determine how much was stolen. In 2015, auditors established that Sh1.9 billion was lost.
In the case of the Sh8 billion Karen land, senior Ministry of Lands officials and MPs were implicated in an attempt to grab 134.4 acres. The civil dispute is pending in court while the criminal case was dropped last year as EACC was not legally constituted when it took the charges to court. The file has been re-opened and suspects could face court soon.
Other scams include the Lang'ata Road Primary School land grabbing attempt, the NSSF Tassia project (Sh5 billion), the 100 mobile clinics container, 'Chickengate', in which Sh50 million was paid to election officials as kickbacks.
The Youth Enterprise Fund had a Sh80 million scam in 2015 while this year, seven officials were suspended after they were implicated in the second scandal involving the fund (Sh10 million), the Standard Gauge Railway (Sh314.2 billion), irregular tendering for the new JKIA terminal (Sh55.6 billion), and single sourcing for the police CCTV project (Sh15 billion).
Last evening Uhuru’s spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, referred us to the President's comments at a recent Kepsa event as his response about his commitment on the anti-graft war. At the meeting on May 18, 2018, Uhuru said corruption would be fought ruthlessly, but also warned that those who malign others on social media would not be spared.
“We are going to deal ruthlessly with corruption, both real and perceived,” President Uhuru declared at State House, Nairobi, during a follow-up meeting to last week’s Eighth Presidential Round Table Forum that brought together stakeholders from the Government and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance.
in 2015, the President was angered by grand corruption and tabled in Parliament a list of about 200 top officials he claimed were implicated in graft, including several of his Cabinet secretaries, whom he later fired and had charged in court.
Yesterday, the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee chairman, Opiyo Wandayi, said corruption had become 'pervasive' in the country.
Mr Wandayi explained that cases such as the latest NYS scandal were only notable because they had been leaked to the public, but mega scams were the order of the day in many other State departments and corporations.
"Mega scams happen daily in different offices and only differ in form and magnitude; but one running thread is procurement. The business of procurement has created fertile avenues for unscrupulous public officers and suppliers to siphon public funds with abandon," said Wandayi.
The chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, Philip Anyolo, asked Uhuru to fulfil his promise to deal with corruption in the Government.
"We have condemned this vice again and again. The Church will continue with civic education on the evils of corruption and what it does to the society," said the prelate.
International Centre for Policy and Conflict Executive Director Ndung’u Wainaina said progressive countries that cared about taxpayers’ money had strict laws that prohibited sitting politicians and public servants, together with their close relatives, from engaging in business deals with the government they lead and serve.
DCI George Kinoti said the department had competent personnel to handle corruption and fraud cases.
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and his Moiben counterpart, Silan Tiren, claimed the country was being run by cartels. They said the gangs could only be contained if the President acted on those bent on tainting his legacy.
“It is very unfortunate that we are captives of cartels. Cartels are running this country. Powerful people just make calls and have their way in stealing from the public. A majority of the Cabinet belongs in Kamiti if we are to deal with this matter,” said Mr Keter.
“I have raised the red flag over the happenings at the NCPB and the result was to block me from chairing the committee,” Mr Terer added.
Tiaty MP William Kamket called on Uhuru to use the the whip on top Government officials involved in corruption.
Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju defended Uhuru's record on the war against corruption, arguing that he suspended six Cabinet secretaries in his first term. [Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati, Roselyne Obala and Caroline Chebet]