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From Kibaki to Ruto: Scams that hit presidents in their first terms

Mwai Kibaki, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta. [File, Standard]

Corruption scandals have rocked President William Ruto’s young government in quick succession, the latest being the explosive fake fertilizer scam that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of farmers across the country.

But it is not only the Kenya Kwanza administration that has been rattled by mega corruption scandals in the first term. Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta also had their own fair share of shocking graft cases after taking over the government.

 With less than two years in office, Ruto has faced major scandals in the health, energy, trade and now agriculture sectors and it appears the cartels involved are not going away soon despite repeated warnings of dire consequences from the president.

Dramatic scandals for the current government started in the Health sector when the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) were rocked by the vice mid-last year.

President Ruto sacked Health PS Josephine Mburu, and suspended Kemsa CEO Terry Ramadhani after they were implicated in the Sh3.7 billion mosquito nets scandal.

Wrangling at NHIF also saw managers in Nairobi and Meru counties suspended, over alleged payout of millions of shillings through fictitious claims by hospitals in their areas.

In the same period last year, more than 14,000 bags of suspicious table sugar were recovered and analysed by the Government Chemist, with traces of mercury, copper, mould and yeast being found.

The unsafe for human consumption sugar was repackaged in I kg and 2kg packets and sold on the local market.

Thereafter, controversy hit Kenya Kwanza again after it emerged that KNTC had single-sourced companies contracted to bring into the country a Sh16.6 billion edible oil cargo that was unfit for human consumption.

The Senate probed KNTC and sought to know if the government imported 12,500 tons of edible oils after a house committee failed to locate the consignment intended to arrest the cost of living in Kenya.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga then told the country that senior officers in the Ministry of Energy made a killing by allegedly using Sh17 billion from the consolidated fund to purchase the fuel through agents and pocketing profit generated from the local retail market. 

He also scoffed at the Government to Government (G to G) oil deal agreed with Saudi Arabia and the UAE for the supply of oil to Kenya.

The latest scam involving huge quantities of fake subsidised fertilizer is still unfolding as farmers in various parts of the country continue queueing at NCPB stores for the commodity.

Political analyst Martin Andati recounted how each administration in Kenya has been hit by maize scandals either through tax-free imports or crooked well-connected cartels selling maize collected from National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) stores and reselling the same to NCPB or millers.

Former Nairobi Town Clerk Philip Kisia, the man credited with having tackled corruption and regenerating the city through the Nairobi Central Business Association (NCBA), however, says the current administration has set an unprecedented pace of major scandals in less than two years.

“They have Kemsa, the sugar scandal, edible oils, crude oil, each running into billions of shillings and there also other scams like exam leakages among others with barely over a year in office,” says Kisia.

Kisia says Kibaki’s leadership style was completely different from Ruto and Uhuru, mainly because he empowered people to do their jobs and created institutions that worked although he was led down by some of his ministers.

However, Kibaki’s reappointment of disgraced former Minister for Finance David Mwiraria back to the Cabinet in 2007 after his earlier involvement in the Sh56 billion Anglo Leasing Scandal raised questions over his integrity. 

The minister had earlier in 2006 been forced to resign from the Cabinet after he was implicated in the scandals but his reappointment demonstrated Kibaki’s lack of commitment to fight corruption.

In spite of the reports by Kroll and Associates of 2004, which found Sh79 billion stashed abroad, nothing had been returned to Kenya by the end of his first term in 2007.

A red flag was also raised on a suspect provision of Sh4.4 billion in the 2007/08 budget for the repayment of a phantom loan incurred in the 1970s for the never built KENREN Chemical and Fertilizer factory.

The provision had been made for the repayment of the fictitious loan incurred when Kibaki was the Minister of Finance around 1974 and Kenyans were being asked to pay when he was president for a factory that was never built.

The Sh4billion naval ship that was procured by the Ministry of Defence led by then Minister Dr Chris Murungaru when it was not fitted with weapons also raised queries.

Like his predecessor Mwiraria, another Finance Minister Amos Kimunya under Kibaki also got entangled in scandals at the Treasury with one regarding the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel to a Libyan firm forcing him to step aside for investigations.

 In June 2008, the Central Bank of Kenya was alleged to have secretly sold the five-star hotel in Nairobi to an unidentified group of Libyan investors for more than Sh4 billion, way below the appraised market value.

The Safaricom IPO, overseen by Kimunya, also raised questions about possible corruption in the execution of the sale as a parliamentary committee and an opposition politician also demanded to know owners of Mobitelea, a company that had a five per cent shareholding.

In 2009, the grand maize scandal involving a whooping four ministries again rocked the Kibaki government, after the Cabinet lifted the sale of imported maize over an alleged shortage.

Instead of importing the maize, briefcase millers, most of them from Eldoret, were given access to the Strategic Grain Reserves where they were awarded large quantities of maize that they resold at commercial rates.

Uhuru Kenyatta

Analyst Kisia says Uhuru, on the other hand, fought corruption selectively, focusing so much on infrastructure development that gladly can be seen today.

“But within those projects, there was a lot of corruption. What could cost Sh100 billion ended up rising to Sh150 billion after many unexplained revisions of the budget,” says Kisia.

The Public Procurement Administrative Review Board cancelled a Sh24.6 billion laptops tender for standard one pupils in March 2014. It was reported in March 2015, that Kenya risked losing Sh4.3 billion in passenger Greenfield terminal project at JKIA after the termination of a Sh64 billion tender awarded to two Chinese firms.

Another controversy that hit headlines in August 2015, when Deputy President Ruto hired a luxury jet and flew to four West African at a cost some MPs said amounted to Sh100 million.

That same year, debate moved from the ‘Hustlers Jet’ to the National Youth Service scandal after a special Auditor’s General report revealed that the Ministry of Devolution led by CS Anne Waiguru had lost Sh1.9 billion through crooked tendering.

Waiguru later resigned from her post and was thereafter followed by colleague Kazungu Kambi who was sacked over a Sh5 billion tender awarded to a Chinese construction company when the National Social Security Fund trustees had approved Sh3million for the project.

A Sh63 billion Managed Equipment Services project scandal erupted in 2015 when a programme was mooted to boost counties’ health capacity.

It was initially expected to cost Sh38 billion but the amount moved to Sh63 billion with counties expected to cough Sh200 million annually.

Then followed the mobile clinics scandal with an estimated loss of about Sh40 billion through irregular tenders and diversion of essential supplies to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

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