Controversy stalks Sicily Kariuki as legislators dig in

Health CS Sicily Kariuki when she appeared before the Senators in regard to medical Equipment Services and UHC in the Country at Parliament on Tuesday 27/11/18. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]
Controversy has stalked Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki since she left the Tea Board of Kenya for the Cabinet in 2013 with all ministries she has headed being hit by corruption.

At Afya House where her prudence has been questioned for ordering a tearing down of the entire 7th floor to create a grand office complete with a kitchen and a changing room, staff scamper from the hallways and lifts on hearing the sirens of her SUVs.

Those meeting her including politicians are reportedly asked to leave their phones in a separate room and her entourage includes several assistants and a hand bag carrier. But whether she survives the current mess at the Health ministry, only time will tell.

Her stand-off with the Senate over the controversial leasing of medical equipment to counties however offers a glimpse in to what is yet to come. The Health Ministry is also reeling from theft at the National Health Insurance Fund that has seen two managers arraigned in court.

So bad is the tension between the CS and Senate that the members of the Health Committee snubbed a meeting she had called on Thursday evening at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi to discuss the roll out of the Universal Health Care.

The meeting was also supposed to iron out differences between the Senate and Ms Kariukiwhich a day before caused the CS to be sent away from Parliament during a heated session over the equipment leasing scheme.

“How can you prosecute a case in court without documents?” Machakos Senator Boniface Kabaka asked.

With senators baying for her blood, the CS is back to where she was in March when MPs demanded for her impeachment over how she handled the mess at Kenyatta National Hospital and the NYS scandal which took place under her watch as Youth Affairs CS.

Ignored summons

At that time, it took the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to make Mandera North MP Bashir Abdullahi, who had sponsored the impeachment motion to withdraw it.

Described then by those pushing for her impeachment as being arrogant, disrespectful and having no regard for rules and procedures, Kariukiand Public Service CS Margaret Kobia thrice ignored summons by Parliament over the NYS scandal.

Infuriated MPs threatened to start collecting signatures for her impeachment but their noise went quiet after a few days raising doubts about whether she was being protected by an upper hand.

Although she was not implicated, Kariuki was among the sacred cows that were left untouched in the second NYS scandal that swept aside her PS Lilian Omollo and head of the National Youth Service Richard Ndubai.

Why she never received the pressure that forced her predecessor at the Youth Ministry Anne Waiguru to quit after a similar scandal is still a mystery. As head of the Public Accounts Committee in 2006, Kenyatta demanded ministers to take responsibility of graft in their ministries.

Plucked from the Tea Board of Kenya where she was Managing Director to become Agriculture Principal Secretary, Kariuki was promoted to the Youth Affairs Ministry after a purge on corruption led to the resignation of six CSs.

Her joining of the Agriculture Ministry was however not without drama as she still clung on her board position at the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) despite warning shots from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

But when she took over the Youth Affairs Ministry, her first promise was to get rid of cartels at the NYS. “We have made every effort that is humanly possible within the time I have been in office to put in place measures that would ensure that money which belongs to these young people does not end up with a few people,” she said during an NYS recruit parade in December 2016.

Still close to Sh10 billion was plundered from the NYS. However, by the time the theft at NYS was discovered, she had already been transferred to the Health Ministry.  

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Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily KariukiUniversal Health CareMinistry of Health