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Mwangi wa Iria's files that escaped keen eye of auditor

By Brian Otieno | Apr 25th 2021 | 2 min read
Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

From snubbing senators on Monday to keeping his camera off during a virtual sitting of a Senate committee, Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria passes off as someone who doesn’t enjoy the company of lawmakers. That, or he doesn’t enjoy being in the hot seat.

When the Health team invited him to appear before them last week, they made it clear that he would sit at the spot dreaded by most public officers to answer questions on his county’s expenditure of Covid cash. This after Auditor General Nancy Gathungu raised a red flag.

Iria instead sent his subordinates, saying they would be more useful as they understood how to spend money better than he did. But in a country unaccustomed to delegating responsibilities, the employees were “chased away”, which, in this context, means they were forced to log off the Zoom meeting.

The governor finally appeared on Wednesday but refused to give senators the satisfaction of seeing his face. He kept his camera off as he fielded the audit queries. Iria spent the better part of the session convincing senators that almost everything in Ms Gathungu's report was false.

The AG had lied about the county spending Sh213 million without a work plan, he insinuated, adding that he had the necessary paperwork. "We have the documents” was his mantra. The committee’s temporary chair, Ledama ole Kina, gave Iria the benefit of the doubt and ordered him to produce the documents within a week.

Throughout the sitting, most senators did not doubt Iria’s truth. In quick succession, they lauded the Murang'a boss for promising that he was clean, and for the yet-to-be delivered files.

But Iria’s senator, Irungu Kang’ata, was among the few who were unconvinced by the governor’s assurances. Kang’ata was particularly concerned that Ms Gathungu had accused the county of buying maize flour without proper requisition. 

"I would like to know the relationship between Covid-19 and the procurement of maize,” said Kang'ata. Most of his colleagues had missed the ‘maize flour’ detail, only picking it up when the senator raised it. Iria also seemed ill-prepared for it, and, for a while, seemed keen to evade it. It took Kang’ata’s insistence to drag an answer out of him.

"The maize was distributed to the vulnerable people within our county,” he responded, an uninspiring cliché answer. Even Kang’ata didn’t think it was worthy of a follow-up. I had expected that the governor would craft a more imaginative response. "I wanted my people well-fed to fight Covid" would have sounded more intriguing and might have perhaps kept the senators on the subject.

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