Audit exposes rot at embassies

Saturday January 12 2013

file |  nation  Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations Chairman Adan Keynan.

Photo/File Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations Chairman Adan Keynan.  NATION

By SAMUEL SIRINGI [email protected]

Taxpayers have spent millions of shillings in salaries and allowances for 13 ambassadors whose terms have expired.

A new audit by a House team showing the extent of regional imbalances in staffing of Kenya’s diplomatic missions says the envoys who have overstayed in their stations had consumed over Sh265 million in salaries and rent by December 2011.

The Departmental Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations says the amount spent on the officials may have gone up substantially since most of them are still keeping their jobs.

Some of the ambassadors have overstayed in their workstations for as many as 32 months, according to the committee’s report.

“It is evident that the same ambassadors continued to overstay (their postings) even after the December 31, 2011,” the report says of the officials.

Islamabad’s Mishi Mwatshahu is listed as the ambassador who has overstayed at her post longest— 32 months, consuming Sh48 million in pay and rent. Mr Ephraim Waweru of London is second having consumed Sh41 million.

The team notes that the Foreign Affairs ministry lacks a policy on recalling and extending terms of service for diplomatic appointees and other officers in missions abroad.

It recommends that rules be formulated to guide the recall of diplomatic appointees at the end of their tour “unless under special circumstances, which must be communicated to the concerned appointee”.

The Report on Appointments to Diplomatic Service tabled in Parliament on Wednesday notes that most ambassadors serving various missions come from home areas of President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Leading the pack are President Kibaki’s Nyeri County and Prime Minister’s rural home county of Siaya, which account for six per cent of the appointees each. Kitui County, the home region of Mr Musyoka, accounts for 4.6 per cent of the appointments.

“There is an apparent correlation of skewed concentration of appointments to diplomatic service from counties represented by the President, PM and VP,” says the report.

Regions of Foreign Affairs Minister and his Permanent Secretary were also found to be having a huge representation of diplomats. In contrast, Tana River, Elgeyo Marakwet, Laikipia and Bomet counties did not have any representation at the ambassadorial or deputy ambassadorial level.

Of the unequal representation, the committee chaired by Mr Adan Keynan said, the appointments defied the requirements of the Constitution.

“Despite the fact that the law does not recognise relationship as a disqualification to public service, presence of nepotism could not be ruled out in the appointments especially where appointment procedures were overlooked,” the report said.

The team recommends an urgent enactment of the Foreign Service Bill to streamline diplomatic service.

The committee set out on the work following a question raised by Narc presidential aspirant Martha Karua who had asked then Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula to release the list and qualifications of people appointed to the diplomatic service since 2008.

Ms Karua argued that there were two relatives of Mr Odinga, although she did not name them.

“If there is a pattern of appointing cronies of members in the Executive, it would be contrary to public policy,” she said.