Suspension spree at City Hall sparks fear

By Josphat Thiong'o | Wednesday, Aug 22nd 2018 at 23:42
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Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his Kiambu counterpart Ferdinand Waititu (R) exchanging greetings [Boniface Okendo/Standard]

One year after he took over the city reins, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has not spared City Hall employees.

Forty workers, including senior officials, have either been sacked or suspended. Finance Executive Danvas Makori was one of those fired while another eight county officials were asked to step aside.

They include Health Executive Hitan Majevdia, Chief Health Officer Thomas Ogaro, Devolution Executive Vesca Kengogo, Chief of Staff Brian Mugo, acting Chief Finance Officer Ekaya Alumasi, acting Head of Treasury Stephen Mutua and John Ojwang’ from the Urban Planning department.

Lax performance

From the Procurement department, 30 members of staff were suspended and some later transferred after the intervention of the Kenya County Government Workers’ Union.

The most recent suspension occurred on August 14, when Sonko sent Mr Ojwang’ home for his alleged role in granting permission for the construction of South End Mall on the Lang’ata Road-Mbagathi Way junction, and Gem Suites in Riverside estate.

Mr Majevdia and Mr Ogaro were suspended on August 1 for alleged laxity in performing their duties. The officials were publicly humiliated when Sonko made the announcement during the opening of a tuberculosis laboratory at the Kangemi Health Centre. He gave them 14 days to explain why county medical facilities lacked medicine and offered sub-standard services.

Three days earlier, Mr Mugo, Mr Alumasi and Mr Mutua had been shown the door. Sonko accused them of misusing public funds.

“There was an intelligence report showing they had misused county resources. Internal investigations have implicated them,” said the governor in a July 29 letter. He went ahead and forwarded their names to the Director of Criminal Investigations.

The vacancies led to a Cabinet reshuffle, with Trade Executive Allan Igambi moving to Finance and his position taken by Newton Munene.

County assembly

Mr Munene had been vetted and approved by the county assembly in May as the Finance executive, but had not been sworn in. Instead, Charles Kerich had assumed control of the docket in an acting capacity. Mr Kerich was however reinstated to his position as the Lands and Housing executive.

On June 5, Sonko suspended Ms Kangogo for insubordination after she allegedly travelled to the US without his permission. County Secretary Peter Kariuki consequently wrote to Kangogo and asked her to take compulsory leave.

“Your failure to obey lawful instructions from your appointing authority is tantamount to insubordination and therefore, you are hereby directed to step aside from your duties and responsibilities,” read the letter in part.

Kangogo was reinstated a month later and has since been appointed to the Health docket following Majevdia’s suspension.

On April 19, the procurement staff were sent on forced leave for allegedly inflating prices and issuing local purchase orders without approval.

The officers were accused of failing to adhere to the Public Finance Management Act as well as the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, leading to loss of funds.

The Procurement department currently operates with a staff of 21. On April 5, Sonko sacked Mr Makori for poor performance. Makori had however been suspended two weeks earlier together with Alumasi for allegedly spying for former Governor Evans Kidero.

“In view of this, your service as a county executive member is hereby terminated with effect from the date of this letter. You will be paid upon clearance and satisfactory handover of all county government property and information within your custody,” read part of his termination letter.

Hereby terminated

In September last year, the governor suspended an officer from the Finance department for failing to bank Sh7 million cash collections from the previous day despite the bank being 50 metres away.

Opposition MCAs have now taken issue with the sackings, saying they are founded on propaganda and unfounded rumours. They have urged Sonko to conduct thorough investigations before making such crucial decisions.

Embakasi MCA Michael Ogada expressed concerns that the sackings would stall development, adding that they were made without consideration for due process. 

Backed by Minority Chief Whip Peter Imwatok, the MCAs argued that the governor was quickly losing favour in the eyes of the public and fellow leaders.

“Sonko was elected on the basis that he was a defender of the people. He is now firing and suspending people unceremoniously. So you tell me who he is defending,” said Mr Imwatok.

Majority Chief Whip Chege Mwaura and Majority Leader Abdi Guyo however said the governor was keen to ensure that he delivered on his election pledges that included, among other things, eradicating corruption in City Hall.

Mr Mwaura told off Sonko’s critics, saying the governor was acting within his mandate by firing or suspending officials who did not perform their duties.

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