President Ruto nominees face ghosts of graft allegations during vetting

Committee on Appointments Chaired by the National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula at the county Hall, Nairobi. October 18, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The ongoing vetting of nominated Cabinet secretaries continues to unmask the millionaire “hustlers” seeking to run the government as the exercise entered the second day yesterday.

So far, the 10 nominees who have appeared before the Committee on Appointments have a combined net worth of Sh8 billion.    

Prof Njuguna Ndung’u (National Treasury and Planning) revealed that he is worth Sh950 million while Prof Kindiki Kithure (Interior and National administration) is worth Sh544 million. Aisha Jumwa (Public Service Gender and Affirmative Action) is worth Sh100 million, Davis Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum) is worth Sh482.2 million, while Moses Kuria (Trade Investment and Industry) said he is worth Sh​750 million.

Prof Kindiki who was first to appear yesterday said his wealth is made up of land and buildings worth around Sh165 million, bank deposits of about Sh50 million and investments in shares and deposits in five Saccos.

He was tasked to explain whether he had the mettle to outperform outgoing Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i by dealing with the perennial banditry in arid and semi-arid lands and ensuring reforms in the docket.

“I am instructed to ensure the banditry problem is resolved once and for all in the North Rift should this House confirm me. When the culture permits, they kill police and civilians then the legitimacy of the State is at stake. So we’ll do whatever it takes,” Kindiki said.

Treasury CS nominee Prof Ndung’u who is expected to turn around Kenya’s economic fortunes had the arduous task of absolving himself from blame over the irregular sale of the Grand Regency Hotel and alleged involvement in a Sh1.2 billion security tender.

He served as CBK governor between March 2007 and March 2015. Ndung’u and former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya had been accused of irregularly selling the hotel below market price and flouting procurement rules.

The committee led by Speaker Moses Wetang’ula sought to establish why a CS nominee whose past professional practice was riddled with graft allegations ought to be cleared to hold the sensitive Treasury docket.

“We have two sworn affidavits in our files alleging that at the time you were CBK governor, you were adversely mentioned in the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel and you also face abuse of office charges involving the irregular award of a Sh1.2 billion security tender while serving as CBK governor in 2014,” said Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah.

“Do you think with such allegations you are the right man for the job? Are you the man who will inspire confidence in the economy considering that our economy is not doing well at all?” he posed.

Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi poked holes into Ndung’u’s integrity, claiming every project he was involved in during his tenure was often dogged by corruption allegations.

Public Service Gender and Affirmative Action CS nominee Jumwa, who was the third candidate, had a hard time convincing the committee that she is worth Sh100 million.

Murder charge

Junet questioned how she acquired the wealth. “On the net wealth, we need to know details of that breakdown. Maybe you have forgotten the figure may be higher than that,” he said.

He noted that mortgage alone for an MP is Sh40 million, car grants Sh5 million per year, a basic salary of Sh700,000 per month, the salary of the Public Service Commission and allowances for sitting in various committees cannot add up to that amount.

Jumwa said the net worth of Sh85 million was for her two houses in Malindi and Nairobi while Sh15 million was accumulated from her various side hustles. “I have two vehicles and the rest are my salaries and whatever I was getting from my salary was for my own consumption.”

Academic qualifications, murder, and corrupt charges also dominated her vetting session as she was put to task to explain why she thought she was fit for the position despite her good conduct certificate having a murder charge

Members of the committee said they failed to understand why she wouldn’t step down and wait to be cleared before undertaking any appointive position in government.

“Why don’t you stay aside until the cases have been fully determined by the court?” asked Junet.

But Jumwa said the case was politically instigated hence the reason it was dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). “I am happy because as a country of law, the DPP dropped the case,” she said.

The CS nominee was accused of conspiracy to commit fraud through payment of Sh19 million to Multiserve contractors with respect to tender number MLD/NG-CDF/01/2017/2018 of Malindi NG-CDF.

On the murder case of Ngumbao Jola in 2019 during campaigns for Ganda Ward by-election, Jumwa said, “I am clear in my mind that I never shot anyone because I am not a gun holder and do not know the names of guns nor how to use one. Three witnesses have testified in court and none of them mentioned my name in regard to the matter.”

She was also put to task to explain her academic qualifications and how she managed to get a master’s degree before attaining a bachelor’s degree.

Jumwa defended her KCSE D- grade saying she was a role model to Kenyans and that they too can get a high position in government despite low grades. 

Energy CS nominee Chirchir said his wealth comprised farms in Olenguruone Kipsonoi, a house in spring valley worth Sh95 million which is his current residence, rental property in Westlands, Matundu valued at Sh50 million, vehicles, bank accounts, and investment in a family tea value addition business known as Chabango EBZ tea company worth Sh185 million.

His net worth, however, did not raise controversy like the huge pay he got working as Chief of Staff in the office of then-Deputy President William Ruto.

Chirchir said he earned Sh18 million, raising questions about how he could earn more than the DP. 

Trade CS nominee Kuria who was the last to be vetted said his wealth was mainly from real estate and shares in sectors like energy and manufacturing.

Kuria promised to explore new trade opportunities with Ethiopia and increase trade within the larger eastern Africa member countries – which he said was at 45 per cent.

“If approved by this House, one of my priority areas will be to explore intra-Africa trade which is currently at 19 per cent. I was recently in Ethiopia for the launch of Safaricom Ethiopia and would like to urge both countries to use the opportunity to increase trade,” said Kuria.

He also explained his style of politics, saying: “We come from divisive politics in our country. Even before I went into professional practice I was in politics. From the onset, we grew up at a time when we were agitating for multi-party democracy. For instance, I was part of the Saba Saba movement.”

“Any perceived political extremism on my side has been informed by the country’s political culture over the years. But going forward, I will play my role in ensuring political competition is not enmity,” he added.