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Prison changes trigger tension as PS stamps foot

Tension is simmering within the Prisons Department after the new Principal Secretary Zienab Hussein suspended payment of multi-billion shillings pending bills.

On one hand, senior prisons officials accuse the PS of stalling operations in the department while on the other her office says the pending bills which amount to Sh6.2 billion have to be verified before being paid.

Of interest is Sh2 billion registered as pending bills in respect of prisoners’ food but which the government claims was cleared out last year. Besides the pending bills, the PS has stopped award of new tenders.

This comes after it emerged that some suppliers, registered under the Youths agency AGPO, have been supplying goods meant for open tender as restricted goods for the last 20 years.

Also, ongoing audits of past payments and mass transfer of officers within the department has caused jitters. So tough is the new PS that officials are now complaining about her style of leadership.

“When you go to her office, she will tell you to leave your mobile phone outside then will give you five minutes to state the reason for your visit before giving you marching orders,” the officer claimed.

She is also accused of disrupting the chain of command, cancelling tenders and running the department through committees.

But a source in Ms Hussein office said: “The pain they are now feeling is because of the changes. Many people are not happy about it but we must ensure that this place you can tender and win without knowing anyone and taxpayers’ money is used appropriately. People will answer tough questions on missing monies.”

Her office also says the committees are tasked to recover titles of 129 parcels of land owned by Prisons. Currently, the department has only has 7 titles to its name for all the land they won in the country.

Hussein was transferred to the correctional department in July when President Uhuru Kenyatta reshuffled the Cabinet.