Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru can now rest easy after a Senate committee on Friday cleared her of wrongdoing therefore quashing impeachment by the county assembly.
The governor was handed a reprieve after a two-day battle to save her job as she marshalled a robust defence team which included her husband Kamotho Waiganjo.
She had been accused of gross violation of the Constitution, misuse of public office, flouting tender and procurement laws amongst other charges.
But the committee steered by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala found that the governor did not violate the law as was alleged by the Members of the County Assembly.
“The committee having investigated the matter in accordance with its mandate under Section 33(4) of the County Governments Act and standing order 75(2) of the Senate Standing Orders reports to the Senate that it finds that the two Charges against the governor have not been substantiated,” team noted on its report.
The committee observed that whereas the governors can be impeached on suspicion of violating the constitution; it is the duty the accusers to prove their cases and the committee to establish that the allegations amount to gross violation of the Constitution.
“The team takes the position that, in line with the precedents of the Senate in impeachment proceedings, in order to find that any particular of an allegation of the charges is substantiated, a determination must be made both that evidence has been adduced pointing to wrongdoing in the manner alleged in the charge and that the threshold for an impeachable offence has been attained,” read the report.
Oversight or blackmail
As senators met to examine the validity Waigiuru’s impeachment on Tuesday, June 23, an issue emerged after the governor was accorded time to explain herself after her accusers, represented by lawyer Ndegwa Kiiru had tabled their case.
The governor had accused the MCAs of a witchhunt, blackmail and staging onslaught against governors they see as not receptive towards their demands.
The former Devolution Cabinet Secretary argued that her accusers had no genuine case against her but were guided by malice and personal interests.
It is the onslaught by MCAs on county bosses that has prompted Chairman of Council of Governors (CoG) Wycliffe Oparanya to come out in defence of his colleagues.
“So far, we have about six governors facing impeachment motions in their counties…Although Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Senate, the damage has been done,” said Oparanya as he addressed the media on Saturday.
“We shall be convening this week to deliberate on this issue. We plead with the MCAs to spare the governors and let them serve their remaining term in peace,” he added.
The tussle between the MCAs and the governors has not been a reserve of Kirinyaga County alone. On the same day that Waiguru was acquitted of accusations that led to her impeachment, her Kitui counterpart Charity Ngilu also got a landmark ruling that handed her a boost to keep her job.
The court halted County Assembly’s plan to table and debate an impeachment motion against Governor Ngilu, which was set for Monday, June 29.
A total of 40 MCAs out of 56 had made the resolution to oust the governor on allegations of violating the Constitution and provisions of the county government act, abuse of office and failure to account for public funds.
Ngilu’s court order may not be an isolated case. As at the moment, there other county bosses facing unclear fate following warnings from their MCAs.
Trans-Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba was recently warned by the MCAs that failure to account for all the devolved funds since the beginning of devolution would hand him an impeachment ticket.
On June 25, Naivasha East MCA and his colleagues blamed the Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui of failing to utilise the devolved funds arguing that his approach would compel the county to return a sizeable amount of money to the National Treasury.
He said: “If Kinyanjui does not comply with the recommendations of this report within 14 days, I will be ready to table an impeachment Motion for which we shall have valid and sufficient grounds,” said Stanley Karanja (Naivasha East).
“Whereas the Constitution seeks to devolve power, Kinyanjui has centralised it. He abused his powers by creating an illegal office of a deputy director of procurement, currently held by his political appointee,” he added.
In what appears like an impeachment season of some sort, another group of four governors could face the chopping board of the MCAs soon. They are Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Mohamed Kuti (Isiolo), and Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga).
Speaking on the floor of the Senate, prior to the convening of the committee which handled Waiguru’s impeachment motion, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr warned of impending ouster motions as he urged his colleagues to exercise sobriety in the matter.
“I want to ask senators to approach this debate on the impeachment of Waiguru in a sober manner bearing in mind there are about five more (impeachment cases) that are coming," he remarked.
Since devolution started in 2013, impeachment motions have been filed severally in various county assemblies often with undesired results for the MCAs.
A notable example is Embu Governor Martin Wambora who was impeached and survived on several occasions, hence, earned him the tag of a governor with nine lives like a cat.
Wambora was accused of flouting the County Government Act by appointing public servants without the assembly's approval, the purchase of Sh35 million maize seeds, procurement of vehicles and authorisation for the renovation of Embu Stadium.
Last year in October, Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja was impeached after a long term budget impasse with the county assembly. His removal was then annulled by the Senate which found no valid grounds for the impeachment.
The only case that could be inspiring the MCAs is the Waititu case whose impeachment motion was upheld after senators voted in the plenary sitting early this year.
But even as most governors survive the ouster motions, filing such motions are within the legislative mandates of the county assemblies, and MCAs could use it as a weapon for an unforeseeable future.
According to the Constitution allows the MCAs to remove governors on four grounds namely; ‘gross violation of this Constitution or any other law, where there are serious reasons for believing that the county government has committed a crime under national or international law, abuse of office or gross misconduct; or physical or mental incapacity to perform the functions of the office of the county governor.’