DCI to probe controversial letter causing ripples in presidency as aides’ face-off

President Uhuru Kenyatta during the Burial ceremony of Lawyer and Businessman Karanja Kabage at Mangu in Rongai, Nakuru County on July 12, 2019. A recently leaked letter has exposed his differences with his deputy William Ruto over division of revenue. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Infighting among top organs of government over a leaked document advising the Attorney General on how to resolve the Division of Revenue stalemate in Parliament intensified yesterday after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s top aide insisted the note was fake and police said it had opened investigations into its source.

Nzioka Waita, the Chief of Staff, reaffirmed State House’s Wednesday position that the document, which was printed on the Presidency’s letterhead did not come from there and that anyone relying on it to advance their cause will do so “at their own peril”.

“The letter is not from the Office of the President, plain and simple and any person or persons wishing to depend on the contents of a document that has been authored on a forged letterhead of a non-existent office does so at their own peril,” he said.

Underhand dealings

Mr Waita made the pronouncement shortly after it emerged that Senators had filed the letter in court as part of evidence in their quest to challenge 24 laws that the National Assembly passed without their involvement, including the Appropriations Bill.

But the Senate leadership hit back at Waita describing his position as dishonest and untenable given the correspondence that followed from the office of the Attorney General to Parliament and the National Treasury.

Samson Cherargei, who chairs the Senate’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, said the printing of the document on the Presidency’s letterhead was clear evidence of its origins.

“We are aware of the underhand dealings of the National Assembly leadership and the president’s handlers misadvising the president,” Mr Cherargei said even as he warned “people at State House not to succumb to intimidation from the National Assembly, “which has put us in the current financial crisis.” 

He challenged Mr Waita to tell Kenyans why the President has yet to sign the Warrant of Authority that allows the controller of Budget (CoB) to authorise the withdrawal of funds from the Consolidated Fund for National Government operations 17 days into the new financial year.

The controversial letter, which was signed by Justus Nyamunga, the Secretary, Budget and Policy Strategy, has particularly received a hostile response from State House because it puts to doubt the legality of President Kenyatta’s decision to sign the Appropriations Bill before Parliament has passed the Division of Revenue Bill.

Dated July 3, the letter had asked the Attorney General to withhold gazetting of the Warrant of Authority - a legal instrument that sanctions the withdrawal of money from the Consolidated Fund – in order to initiate a “political process” that would enable Parliament to pass the Division of Revenue and County Allocation of Revenue Bills.

Yesterday, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations joined the fray with an announcement that it was investigating “the authenticity and genuineness” of the said letter to the AG “as it is believed to have been fraudulently written without reference to the concerned authority”.

Although some government officials had initially acknowledged the letter as genuine, State House yesterday maintained it was a forgery and insisted its author had acted in his individual capacity.

State House insisted that neither the office Mr Nyamunga purports to be writing for nor the office he claims to hold are in the Office of the President.

Attorney General Kihara Kariuki’s office also denied receiving the controversial letter from the Presidency. Solicitor General Ken Ogeto insisted that neither the AG nor himself had received such a letter.

Mr Ogeto also disowned a document that purportedly came from the AG’s office acknowledging receipt of Mr Nyamunga’s letter and asking Parliament to respond to it.

The July 9 letter was signed by Fred Mwachi, senior parliamentary counsel for the Attorney General, who acknowledged receipt of the Nyamung letter on July 3 and said his office was “in the process of drafting a legal advisory for the Attorney General’s consideration”. The letter is addressed to the National Treasury and clerks of the National Assembly as well as Senate.

Sources told The Standard the storm sparked by the letter(s) yesterday prompted a meeting of top officials at the Office of the President. DCI boss George Kinoti swung into action to establish the authenticity of the letter following counter-exchanges between the aides of Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto.

“The letter dated July 3, which is already in public domain, which allegedly originated from the Secretary, Budget and Policy strategy and signed by Mr Nyamunga, (is) addressed to the attention of one Fred Mwachi,” said a statement by DCI Head of Investigations John Kariuki.

“This is to confirm that the DCI is investigating the authenticity and genuineness of the said letter, as it is believed to have been fraudulently made without concerned authority.”

The DCI is reportedly interested in the last paragraph of Mr Nyamunga’s letter.

“The purpose of this note, therefore, is to bring this matter to your attention and to request the withholding of gazetting of the said Warrant Authority and urgently to initiate a political process to have the Division of Revenue Bill and the County Allocation of Revenue Bill enacted into law, so as to operationalize the funds under the constitution,” the paragraph reads.

It adds: “To empower issuance of Warrant Authority, and enable the Controller of Budget (CoB) Agnes Odhiambo to authorise withdraw in accordance with Article 228(4) of the Constitution.”

It appears to suggest that the president could have broken the law hence the suggestion to suspend the spending that would essentially occasion a government shutdown.

It is the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua who usually writes such letters for the Presidency.

Despite the letter making reference to the Presidency and citing State House address, it emerged that Nyamunga is based at Harambee House Annex. But the DP’s spokesperson Emanuel Talam when contacted yesterday stated: “We do not want to be drawn into the debate about the letter anymore.”

Insiders within the DP’s office raised issues concerning the letter. “The Presidency has the Executive office of the President and the Executive Office of the DP in this case, there is no reference to the DP,” said an official at the DP’s annexe office.

He continued: “This matter does not link the DP in any way. This strange document, whether fake or real has nothing to do with us.”