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Questions linger as KACC directors exit

By | August 30th 2011

By David Ohito and Cyrus Ombati

Parliament has had its way. The President has assented to the relevant Bill, and Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Director PLO Lumumba and his top directors have vacated office.

Everything has gone to script as Parliament wished when it turned its blazing guns on Lumumba last week, accusing him of targeting and disrespecting them, and engaging in ‘trivialities’ such as media leaks and public demonstrations.

Gone with Lumumba from Integrity Centre on Monday were his deputy John Parmenas Mutonyi, who was in charge of investigations, as well as three assistant directors: Prof Jane Onsando (Preventive Services), Mr Wilson Shollei (Finance and Administration) and Mr Pravin Bowry (Legal Services and Asset Tracing).

They got their marching orders from KACC Advisory Board, which is chaired by former Law Society of Kenya chairman Okong’o Omogeni, who took charge of operations at the anti-graft agency.

A new Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission will assume its functions once set up within 90 days.

Of concern now are the unclear transitional clauses and the fate of high profile and sensitive corruption cases involving serving politicians — among them ministers and top public servants in the current and former regimes.

Collapsed functions

The move comes after President Kibaki signed into law the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Act — literally collapsing the functions of the commission and creating a leadership gap.

Omogeni on Monday explained the board would oversee operations at the commission for the next three months until new commissioners assume office.

"The commission shall continue to exist and serve the country. The necessary transitions from the director and his assistant directors to appropriate managers to be appointed by the advisory board will take place in a week," said Omogeni.

Omogeni, who had earlier chaired a meeting of the board, added the directors will be given ample time to hand over their responsibilities to the new managers.

He said investigations, court cases and other activities of the commission will continue as usual under the board’s directorship.

He said the board has concerns over amendments and repealing of the Anti-Corruption and Economics Crimes Act (2003) and expressed regret the board’s inputs to the new law were disregarded, arguing that could negatively affect the new commission’s operations.

He made the remarks at Integrity Centre while in the company of board members Irene Keino, Billow Kerrow, John Wanyela, Naomi Wagereka, Grace Injene, Francis Wangara and Reuben Kosgei.

Omogeni said they were waiting for the publication of the new Act to give the way forward on payments for the exiting directors.

"We will be able to know if they will be paid for their remaining contractual period," he said.

Before the disbandment, KACC had warned against attempts at reconstituting the commission.

"To reconstitute the organisation at this stage would severely affect the work in progress and cause loss of momentum," KACC said in a legal opinion sent to the President and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The commission had completed forensic investigations into assets and transactions worth Sh7.6 billion and was pursuing other loses involving public entities totalling Sh13.9 billion.

The cases included National Cereal and Produce Board (Sh2.4 billion), Central Bank of Kenya fraudulent alteration of revenue figures leading to unexplained loss of Sh524 million, and Kenya Sugar Board’s irregular payment of Sh350 million.

National Social Security Fund was also under investigation for Sh1.6 billion irregular sale and transfer of shares. In yet another case, NSSF was being investigated over irregular sale and transfer of plots along Nairobi’s Kenyatta Avenue worth Sh1.35 billion to top officials.

Merchants of corruption

The commission filed Sh1.6 billion recovery suits. Their fate now remains unknown as merchants of corruption get a reprieve.

KACC, through the courts, recovered public assets worth Sh1.7 billion among them properties belonging to Kenya Railways Corporation, City Council of Nairobi, Municipal Council of Nakuru and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Anti-graft crusader Mwalimu Mati of Mars Group said: "KACC was making tremendous progress on Anglo-Leasing investigations. They successfully moved to court and secured grounds for seeking mutual legal assistance in the Anglo-Leasing case and the Japanese Embassy (land) investigations. All that is lost.

"KACC is being paralysed because the political class are targets of investigation. Because we are near an election it is easy to disrupt the investigations and plunder public funds," Mati cautioned.

Mutonyi revealed they were waiting for direction from the advisory board.

"The board is supposed to meet anytime and tell us what to do. If they direct that we hand over to them we will do that because as it stands now, we are illegally in office," he said.

Mutonyi added there was confusion because there was no clear direction on the transition as it is in other new Acts like that of elections.

"There are so many things that need to be done by the outgoing team but it seems we will leave hurriedly because there is confusion on the way forward," he said.

Omogeni added the board would also determine if the outgoing team would be paid their dues for remaining period in office or three months. He revealed he had summoned a meeting in the afternoon to deliberate on the way forward.

Exuded confidence

He exuded confidence they would be able to manage the crisis citing past instances like the exit of former KACC director Justice Aaron Ringera.

"There is no need for alarm. We have managed such crises in the past and I have faith we will handle this one. It is unfortunate this happened," he said.

Omogeni said some of the board members had not read the new Act to enable them meet earlier as anticipated.

"We are reading all this from your paper. We have asked for the right version of the law from the AG’s office to read and make an informed decisions," he added.

Omogeni admitted the new law had created more confusion in a commission that had taken off well.

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