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Wangusi: I was kicked out for opposing illegal payments

COUNTIES
By Paul Wafula | February 4th 2018
Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Francis Wangusi

Francis Wangusi called a board meeting on the last week of September 2017.

His board members at the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) arrived for the Sep 26 meeting as scheduled. The main agenda was a case filed by Airtel that was becoming a major thorn in the flesh.

After the presentation on the matter by Mr Wangusi, the director general, the board resolved to settle the case out of court.

But after the meeting, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joseph Mucheru called. He had just learned of the resolution and wanted Wangusi to convene another one at the earliest opportunity. Wangusi set it for two days later.

It was to be a breakfast meeting. He approved the meeting and its budget. At the September 28 meeting, Mr Mucheru asked the board to rescind its decision and defend the case in court. The board obliged, convened another special meeting a week later and reversed its earlier decision.

“This is a clear demonstration the board is totally controlled by the CS and operates at his pleasure,” Mr Wangusi narrates in an explosive affidavit filed in court this week in a bid to get his job back.

The authority would lose the Airtel case two months later, vindicating Wangusi to some degree, but opening another battle front with his parent ministry.

In a bare knuckled attack on the CS and Permanent Secretary Sammy Itemere, Wangusi has gone full blown out to demonstrate how his board is a puppet of the ministry. 

“It is worth noting that members of the board, other than the chairperson, are appointees of the Cabinet Secretary,” Mr Wangusi argues in the affidavit to which other parties are yet to respond.

Despite getting court orders reversing the board decision to send him on a three-month compulsory leave, plain-clothed security officers at the CA head office on Waiyaki Way would not let him in.

The stand-off lasted for about two hours before Wangusi and his lawyer left, a signal that his troubles are far from over.

Illegal payments

Wangusi argues in court that he is being victimised after rejecting interference in the running of the authority from his parent ministry – the Ministry of Information and Communication (ICT).

He says the ministry through its PS, Mr Itemere, requested on March 7, 2017 for payment of Sh10 million towards the sponsorship of Ajira Digital Programme. “I responded through a letter dated March 15, 2017 declining to apply public resources to fund imaginary and dubious programmes which were not budgeted for,” Wangusi swears in court papers filed by Prof Tom Ojienda.

He adds that the ministry responded to the letter, insisting that he makes those “suspicious and obviously illegal payments through the named accounts”.

He also links his troubles to the establishment of a new department of Cyber Security and E-Commerce (CSE), which he opposed on grounds that it would duplicate functions already being done by his authority.

Wangusi says that on June 9, 2017 the ministry directed him to convene a board meeting to discuss the establishment and hiring of the head of the CSE directorate. He says he declined on grounds that the authority had already established a CSE division, headed by an assistant director, and deployed staff.

“All the responsibilities listed were adequately covered and currently being performed by the CSE division and that the current structure does not provide for such a position and that there was no budgetary allocation thereto,” he notes.

He says the ministry responded through “an angry toned letter” dated June 21, 2017 expressing the view that he had had a discussion with the CS and agreed to establish “an illegal department, hire personnel with overlapping roles with the existing personnel and squander public resources, a fact he knew was wrong”.

Another request, Wangusi says, came on November 17, 2017. This time, Itemere wanted Sh25 million for the swearing-in ceremony of President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

“I ignored this letter with the contempt it deserves since I was aware that this was a scheme by corrupt public servants to swindle public resources. My stand obviously truly angered the corrupt officers who are now fighting back,” he said.

He says these decisions have made him a target of victimisation that led to the decision to send him on leave.

Wangusi also said he had a problem with a request to second an employee from his agency to the ministry but without following laid down procedures.

In December 2017, he says, the PS demanded that he seconds a Mercy Wanjau to the ministry for a period of six months beginning January 8, 2018.

Ms Wanjau was however to be paid salary and other benefits from the CA.

“This directive was unprocedural and illegal. The policy on secondment is that the receiving department pays the salary of the employee, and authority must be sought from the employer first,” he notes.

Wangusi argues that the unintended consequence is that the ministry would pay the salary and other benefits of the said employee but not credit her accounts as the communication’s authority also pays her in the actual sense.

Private interests

Wangusi was serving his second and final four year term when he was send on compulsory leave last month. His second term started on August 22, 2015, meaning that he has about 18 months left to the end of his term.

He has also linked his problems to the controversial competition study in the telecommunications industry. He says the board approved the request by management to carry a competition study for purposes of declaring dominant markets in the telecommunication sector.

The management advertised for the procurement of a consultant in this regard. A firm called Analysis Mason won the tender and was hired to conduct the study.

The management organised a stakeholders meetings four times, including on July 30, 2017 on public participation before a final draft was done.

“The board abruptly cancelled the meetings after the authority had incurred a lot of costs convening the workshop,” he said. He blames politics for the cancellations, saying some board members have private interests and would be compromised if the draft report is finalised and implemented.

“Such members include David Cheruyoit Kitur, executive director of Microlan Africa. His firm is doing business in ICT sector and Patricia Kimama who is the head of cash management and E-channels including M-Shwari of Safaricom at Commercial Bank of Africa,” he argues.

Wangusi is also banking on the process used to send him home and the constitution of the board to win the court battle. He has questioned the legality of the decision to send him on compulsory leave considering that the board did not have a chairman at the time.

“The current board does not have a chairman appointed by the President as mandatory requirement by law and therefore it is improperly constituted to make any legally binding decision,” Wangusi says.

The post of CA board chairman has been vacant since May last year when Ben Gituku’s term expired.

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