Six months after he took office, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu launched a rehabilitation programme dubbed Kaa Sober in Makwa village in Gatundu North, where chang’aa brewing is rampant.
Shortly after, the programme, which had only 300 beneficiaries at its inception, was extended to other wards. The beneficiaries were paid Sh400 daily each for doing manual work.
It is now claimed that before it ended in February, it had gobbled up about Sh1 billion, which comes to about Sh2 million daily.
As the programme spread, with the number of beneficiaries rising to 6,500, according to Mr Waititu, it became controversial, with county leaders and experts questioning its effectiveness and sustainability.
They viewed it as an avenue for theft and a breeding ground for political militia.
Backed by nearly all Members of County Assembly (MCAs), the leaders included senators Kimani Wamatangi and Isaac Mwaura (nominated), Woman Rep Gathoni wa Muchomba, MP Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) and Thika lawmaker Patrick Wainaina.
Beneficiaries were paid for collecting garbage, unblocking drains and clearing bushes, work that is ordinarily done by county staff.
And, during public holidays and rallies, they were ferried in buses to harass Mr Waititu’s critics, a matter that was reported to police.
Payments were made every evening through MCAs or select administrators, who collected the cash from the county office.
Mr Waititu, in one of the videos that has been doing the rounds, was captured explaining how he would give ward representatives the money, and acknowledged that the beneficiaries were described as his militia.
The programme, which later faced a cash crunch, was terminated in February this year, when 5,200 beneficiaries were awarded certificates at Ndumberi Stadium and given a Sh104 million send-off package, with each receiving a Sh20,000 cheque.
Mr Waititu has defended the programme, saying it was a way of creating jobs for youth, like he had promised during his campaigns.
He dismissed those opposed to it as jealous, and challenged them to start their own programmes.
Now, the programme, which, according to the MCAs, was carried out without their approval, is the subject of investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, according to reliable sources.
The Senate’s Public Accounts and Investments Committee (PAIC) ordered the Auditor-General to conduct a special audit on the programme following a request by Senator Wamatangi last week when Mr Waititu appeared before the committee.
“This committee also requests the Auditor-General to table, in line with Article 229 [of the Constitution], the audited accounts of the Kiambu Alcoholic Control Fund… I believe that that is what is called Kaa Sober in street language,” chairman Moses Kajwang’ said.
Committee member Mr Wamatangi asked the team to consider hiring a reputable private firm to do a parallel audit.
The senator, backed by a section of lawmakers and MCAs, has been asking whether the county adhered to the Public Finance Management Act.
The approach used could have created avenues for theft, he suggests. “If you’re paying Sh400 per day [to beneficiaries], it means you are spending Sh2 million a day, Sh60 million per month, and Sh720 million per year.
"Such a programme, including the names of the beneficiaries and the budget, must be approved by the assembly and a good formula of disbursing the money crafted to avoid scenarios where someone comes up with a fake list of people to ensure they loot from public coffers,” he said.
Ms Muchomba and experts faulted the process and questioned whether it had benefited deserving people. She charged that the beneficiaries had been turned into a political outfit.
In June 2017, she filed a complaint at the Kiambu Police Station (OB No 35/4/6/18) alleging that the group was mobilised to attack her in Ndumberi on Madaraka Day.
On June 28, they heckled MP Kuria in Kikuyu, and in December they humiliated the Woman Rep during a presidential function at Ndumberi Stadium.
National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse CEO Victor Okiamo once said Kaa Sober did not qualify as a rehabilitation programme.