After Sonko, EACC now sets its sights on Elachi

Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi addresses the press at City Hall after resuming office. [File, Standard]

After charging Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, the anti-graft agency is now going after the county’s speaker, Beatrice Elachi.

The Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) has opened investigations into Ms Elachi, who is facing allegations of abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds.

The probe threatens to further complicate the leadership crisis in the capital city.

Further, according to a top official of the Jubilee Party, who spoke to The Standard, on condition of anonymity, the speaker has been acting unilaterally and in defiance of the advice of the ruling party.

SEE ALSO: Governor Sonko to face 3 assault charges over arrest drama

“She was advised not to open many battlefronts, but she opted to act unilaterally. She does not have the blessings of the party,” the official said, suggesting the speaker has a lone battle on her hands.

Leadership vacuum

The latest development complicates matters at City Hall given Mr Sonko, who is facing graft charges, has been barred from office and has no deputy.

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As one strategy to resolve the leadership crisis in the county, there were reports of a push to impeach Sonko and have Elachi act for 60 days as fresh elections are held.

If the speaker were to be prosecuted and required to step aside, that would make the leadership vacuum worse.

SEE ALSO: Court declines to stop Sonko impeachment

Elachi had until yesterday to respond to a letter from the EACC detailing the claims against her, which were largely related to the appointment of Monica Muthami as the acting assembly clerk to approve the assembly’s spending. 

The speaker also faces accusations of frustrating the return to office of Jacob Ngwele as clerk because of their past conflicts, despite a court order.

Elachi returned to office in October after nearly a year out of City Hall, following her controversial impeachment last September by MCAs over alleged abuse of office. She had been kicked out after fights with Mr Ngwele over foreign trip costs, but the courts overturned her removal.

Elachi did not respond to our calls or text messages for comment yesterday.

The speaker is also a person of interest in investigations into claims involving the County Public Service Board (CSPB), which she chairs.

SEE ALSO: MPs scoff at Uhuru’s threat over conflict of interest law

The leadership wrangles at the board, which oversees the spending of billions of shillings, led to the ousters of Elachi, Abdi Guyo as majority leader, Elias Otieno as a minority leader and Ngwele as a clerk as Jubilee and ODM cracked the whip and sought to replace their representatives.

Elachi was the only newcomer to the board as the other three served in the last county assembly.

The wars were mainly over the approval of buildings and issuance of certificates for hotels and restaurants within the city. There were claims of kickbacks.

The EACC inquiry, according to a letter addressed to Elachi by agency officer Kairichi Marimba, is on her role in the unprocedural ejection of Ngwele, who was a member of the board.

“The speaker, in arbitrary abuse of her office, irregularly constituted the board in October at a time a functional gazetted one was in office," reads the letter written on behalf of EACC Chief Executive Twalib Mbarak.

SEE ALSO: Court of Appeal ruling deepens Nairobi leadership crisis

“It is further alleged that the said board, irregularly constituted, proceeded to approve the appointment of one Ms Monica Muthami, the principal clerk assistant as the acting assembly clerk effective October 30th, besides making other irregular appointments and promotions,” adds the letter.

Week’s ultimatum

When contacted, EACC investigators told The Standard that the speaker is in receipt of the letter but is yet to respond to the allegations, despite being given a week’s ultimatum.

“The commission requires your office to respond to these allegations within seven days from the date of the letter,” reads the letter dated December 17.

The EACC detectives are pursuing Elachi over allegations that Ms Muthami continues to discharge the duties vested in the office of the clerk of the assembly in violation of a court order dated October 30, allowing the substantive office holder to resume duty and discharge his functions without any condition.

“It is reported that in the court order dated November 26th, the Employment and Labour Court suspended the decision by three respondents’ interested parties purporting to appoint Muthami and/or any other persons acting as clerk,” stated the letter, which had the court records attached.

“It is reported that despite the court order directing the clerk to be given access to his office, the latter has (several times) been denied access to his office.”

The EACC said it has been informed that despite the court order suspending Muthami from performing the duties of an authorised officer, she still continues to discharge the duties of the clerk.

These duties include approvals, procurement, authorising foreign and domestic travels for staff and MCAs, authorising spending at the assembly and approving staff salary payments.

Serious breach

“The Commission notes that these allegations constitute serious governance and ethical issues, and if true, would amount to a serious breach of the integrity and ethical requirements governing the conduct of public officers as laid out under Chapter Six of the Constitution, the Leadership and Integrity Act, and the Public Officers Ethics,” the agency cautioned.

It continued: “The Commission wishes to particularly draw your (Elachi) attention to the provision of Article 73 and 75 of the Constitution and Section 11 (a) and (b) of the Leadership and Integrity Act, which binds public officers to carry out their duties in a manner that maintains public confidence in the integrity of their respective offices.”

The letter also cited Section 13 (b) of the Leadership and Integrity Act, which directs that a State officer will “not to engage in activities that amount to an abuse of office”.

When contacted, Mr Mbarak confirmed that cleaning up the mess at City Hall is not over.

“EACC is committed to ensuring that there is proper realisation of the total accountability and transparency of the county government,” he said.

“EACC is targeting errant senior county officials who are known to have been engaging in corrupt activities and other malpractices.”

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Nairobi Governor Mike SonkoEACCBeatrice Elachi