More CSs face arrest as Uhuru picks Ukur at Treasury

Labour CS Ukur Yattani during a press conference in Nairobi. [David Njaaga/Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday made expected changes at the National Treasury, as reports emerged that at least two more Cabinet secretaries could be arrested over corruption.

The President surprised many when he picked Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani to act as the National Treasury CS, replacing Henry Rotich, who was charged with corruption on Monday.

Sources said Uhuru chose Mr Yattani because a new appointee outside Cabinet would require vetting by the National Assembly in a process that would take at least two weeks.

But it also emerged that the President's decision to make the stop-gap appointment could have been influenced by reports that more ministers were under investigation and could be charged any time.

A credible source told The Standard at least two more ministers were under two separate investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

One has been questioned twice by the EACC, while the other is set to face detectives at the DCI, both over graft claims.

“At least two CSs are under active probe that may lead to their removal from Government through the courts if the Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji agrees with the investigators. That is one of the reasons the President has to wait,” disclosed a source aware of the matter.

The President is said to have been briefed on the progress of the investigations and is waiting for their conclusion before he announces a major reshuffle of his Cabinet, which has been rocked by divisions.

The Standard has withheld the names of the CSs for legal reasons.

“It was supposed to be an overhaul. There were some technicalities in relation to the ongoing cases with the various investigating agencies,” disclosed an insider within the presidency.

Yesterday, Planning Principal Secretary Julius Muia was moved to the National Treasury in a similar capacity, taking over from Kamau Thugge, who was charged alongside Rotich.

Torome Saitoti was appointed Planning PS, with Maj Gen (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa taking over from him at the Defence ministry.

Vacant post

The changes mean the post of Immigration PS is vacant. There is no change at the East African Community ministry although PS Susan Koech was among those arraigned over the Sh63 billion dams' scandal.

State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo released a statement on the reorganisation of Government.

“In order to ensure smooth operations and continuity at the National Treasury and in line ministries following the court order affecting the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning, Mr Henry Rotich, and the Principal Secretary for the National Treasury Dr Kamau Thugge, the President has made the following changes to the organisation of Government," the statement read.

Rotich’s job as Treasury CS became untenable after the anti-corruption court slapped him with tough bail conditions on Monday. Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti directed that Rotich must not go near his offices unless accompanied by a police officer.

Rotich and his co-accused were also ordered to deposit their passports and all other travelling documents in court.

Rotich and Thugge each deposited Sh15 million cash bail to secure their release after being charged with conspiracy to defraud the Government Sh63 billion.

The magistrate warned that they should not contact any of the prosecution witnesses or tamper with evidence, as any breach of the bail terms would lead to automatic cancellation of bail.

Mr Ogoti’s decision signaled a steep fall for Rotich and Thugge. The prosecution said the two - alongside Koech and Chief Economist Kennedy Nyakundi - were the masterminds of the dams scandal that allegedly led to the loss of Sh19.7 billion.

The four accused denied the charges, which relate to the construction of Kimwarer and Arror dams in Elgeyo Marakwet. The projects have stalled.

According to prosecution, Rotich and Thugge lied that the loan was guaranteed by the Italian Government, yet they knew it was a concessional agreement where the Italian firm was to be borrower and financier.

As the Treasury CS and PS, the State officers were accused of abusing their powers to improperly confer a benefit of Sh11 billion to an Italian insurance company without following the law on public finance management.

Their predicament was worsened by the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, which stipulates that any public officer charged with corruption stands suspended from office until the case is concluded.

Yesterday, Yattani thanked Uhuru for appointing him to Treasury, saying the decision was "based on the trust the President had in him".

"I am aware that the task ahead is enormous and expectations high on the side of Kenyans. I will strive to ensure the fiscal soundness of the economy by giving priority to areas that will support the Government’s Big Four agenda and realisation of Vision 2030.”

The former Marsabit Governor is a career civil servant who rose through the provincial administration ranks after being picked by retired President Moi. His first stint in politics was when he was elected MP for North Horr following the death of Bonaya Godana in an aircraft crash in 2006.