Tale of former and sitting governors, their spouses and children accused of corruption

The wife of former Murang'a governor Mwangi Wa Iria Jane Waigwe Kimani, and her brother Solomon Mutura Kimani at Milimani law courts yesterday in relation to offenses related to corruption at the county government during Governor Wa Iria`s tenure on Wednesday, April 17,2024. [Collins Kweyu,Standard]

The move by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate and charge former Murang'a governor Mwangi Wa Iria, his wife Jane Waigwe and her brother Solomon Mutura Kimani calls to memory other cases involving county chiefs and their families.

The former governor alongside seven other people are accused of irregularly awarding tenders and other procurement irregularities totaling Sh140 million in 2015 to Top Image Media Consultancy Limited and Value View Limited with no regard for conflict of interest

The seven other people are Patrick Kagumu Mukuria, former County Secretary and the current Kissii County Commissioner, Jane Wanjiru Mbuthia, David Maina Kiama, David Maina Njeri, and Peter Muturi Karanja Wa Iria’ who was Wa Iria’s former Personal Assistant.

The corruption case has been put on hold after the former county boss obtained conservatory orders stopping the suit, a strategy used by other suspects facing the graft charges.

Other than Wa Iria other former county bosses who have been accused dragging their spouses, relatives and children on looting from public coffers include  Okoth Obado (Migori) Ferdinad Waititu (Kiambu) Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) Mike Mbuvi Sonko (Nairobi) Evans Kidero (Nairobi) and Tharaka Nithi governor Muthomi Njuki.

In August last year, Oparanya, the ODM Deputy party leader and his three wives were arrested by detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over corruption and economic crimes allegedly committed during his tenure as Kakamega governor.

EACC said they had conducted investigations into embezzlement of funds from the County under Oparanya’s watch between 2013 and 2022 to a tune of Sh1.3 billion.

 “It was found that public funds were unlawfully acquired through proxies and associates…we successfully conducted a search on various targets. In our searches, we have successfully found documents, hard cash and other items that we will be analysing," EACC Deputy CEO Abdi Mohammed said while explaining the reasons for the former governor’s arrest.

 In 2020, Obado and 10 people including his four children spent the night in police custody in Nairobi after being driven from Kisii where they were arrested after grilling by EACC detectives after their DPP accused them of using their companies to syphon funds from Migori county coffers.

The Governor was accused of benefiting indirectly from Sh73.4 million that was paid to his four children who received payments from companies that traded with the Migori County between the years 2013 and 2017 when Obado served his first term.

The money was paid to 13 firms owned by six of the suspects but followed to the governor’s three children his two sons and a daughter who received in their accounts up to Sh38.9 million that they used to finance their school fees, upkeep and medical bills while in school in Scotland, United Kingdom and Australia, while part of it was used to buy two sport utility vehicles, according to DPP.

The remainder of Sh34.5 million is said to have found its way to Obado’s household when a house was procured in Loresho Ridge, and registered under his daughter Evelyn Okoth.

On Waititu’s case, the corruption claims led a successful impeachment in the County Assembly and in Senate after he and his wife Susan Ndungu and three daughters Ruth Njeri, Diana Wangoko and Ruth Mumbi were accused of irregular procurement of a tender amounting to Sh588 million.

The two denied the six counts before Chief Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi that included conflict of interest and of dealing with suspect property.

The first conflict of interest charge is in respect to Sh25 million allegedly paid to firms associated with the governor, while the first charge on dealing with suspect property involves Sh18.4 million spent in the acquisition of Saika Two Estate Developers Ltd.

 Njeri, who Waititu was forced to defend at the senate during his trial over claims that she had been found with Sh100 million in her bank account, was awarded a tender to supply tires through her Modiba Management Services.

Wangoko, the director of Beedee Management Services Limited supplied garbage skips while Mumbi who together with a John Mwangi Kimani owns Bins Management Services also supplied tires, first aid kits, water pipes and garbage collection protective equipment.

Former Nairobi governors Kidero and Sonko have also found themselves in the dragnet of the anti-graft sleuths over corruption claims where their family members were at the center of the controversy.

Three years ago, the Court of Appeal declined to bar the EACC from probing Kidero and his wife Susan Mboya’s property and accounts in a quest to recover unexplained wealth of Sh9 billion which the EACC believed was acquired through corruption or economic crimes

According to Mulki Abdi Umar, one of the investigators in the case, Kidero also owns 11 vehicles that include Range Rovers and Mercedes Benzes.

 “The investigations have so far revealed that the first petitioner (Kidero) had amassed unexplained wealth, which is not commensurate with his known legitimate source of income and that to complete the investigations, it was necessary to search the first petitioner’s business, offices and residential premises,” EACC said in its response.

Investigations revealed that Kidero owns 50 rental units on Riara Road estimated at Sh1 billion and another property known as Muthaiga Heights worth the same amount.

 On Sonko’s case, the former governor who was successfully tried by the Senate for gross misconduct and abuse of office was exposed as someone who, through fraud, spent taxpayers’ Sh4.6 million to fly Saumu to New York using a first-class flight at a cost of Sh840,000 and hired a chopper for her to tour the city

 Nairobi Minority Leader Michael Ogada, Sonko’s chief accuser, told Senators that the governor was using vulgar language and using county funds to fund his daughter’s trip.

Saumu, according to Ogada, was disguised as a city ward administrator while accompanying her mother Primrose Mweru Mbuvi to the 62nd First Ladies’ conference for 14 days in March 2018 during which she received Sh2.6 million withdrawn from the bank by a county junior officer.

“On the same trip, apart from the first-class ticket, we find that the governor’s daughter had a chopper hired for her at a cost of Sh220,000 to fly her around New York City to see how beautiful it is using public funds,” the Wared Rep told Senators.

She went ahead to have a party at a cost of Sh260,000. The same lady was transferred from the First Ladies’ Conference to Philadelphia at a cost of Sh60,000,” Ogada revealed.

Tharaka Nithi governor Muthomi Njuki in 2020, was accused by the anti-graft body of sharing Sh34.9 million from the county coffers to share among his family members and associates.

The EACC claimed Njuki contracted Generations Electronics Limited to import an incinerator whose directors are Njuki himself, his wife Margaret Mugweru and David Mbugua, who is said to be the governor’s business associate. County government then paid Sh34,998,500 to Westomax Investment Limited who supplied the incinerator.

The firm’s directors are Kenneth Mucuia and Caroline Wambui. Document illustrates how the proceeds from the deal were later shared, to among others, close relatives of the governor.

Part of the beneficiaries of the public funds, the EACC claimed included the Gentech Supplies and service which was paid Sh200,000 and whose directors included Allan Gitonga, a nephew to the governor, while another company owned by Njuki’s son, Brian Muthomi, G-Sort Limited was paid Sh2.1 million in unexplained circumstances.

Njuki’s brother-in-law, George Mugweru was paid Sh5.5 million and another Sh9.7 million from Generations Electronics Ltd. The Sh5.5 million was later transferred to the governor. 

The case is still active to date.

 The case of county chiefs and their relatives engaging in public coffers’ money was re-affirmed in August 2018 when EACC Vice Chairperson Sophia Lepuchirit revealed how governors’ wives had access to Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) passwords in their plot to steal public funds.

“It is against the law for the county executives’ spouses to have knowledge of county government’s accounts details, leave alone accessing IFMIS passwords,” the vice chairperson warned during the International Anti-Corruption Day Sunday at the Meru National Polytechnic.

 Governance Expert Prof Gitile Naituli while accusing the current and former governments of being vindictive ‘for weaponizing the war against graft', said at the same time that the country has normalised corruption since its inception after independence.

“The country started on a wrong path where lack of integrity is appreciated and the suspects treated as heroes that is why corruption suspects and murder suspects are rewarded highly by the electorate and it becomes easy for them to acquire the elective positions,” he said.

He however said the current government lacks the moral capacity to accuse anyone of corruption because, just like other administrations, they only file cases for anti-system leaders, a move he said, watered down the war on graft.

"Immediately after the Kenya Kwanza administration took over, the DPP withdrew all the corruption cases against their sympathizers and while the President vowed not to weaponized war on graft, only opposition-allied leaders are being targeted and this is where the anti-corruption war is being lost,” the political analyst told The Sunday Standard.