More than 30 former and current governors are set to face corruption charges as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) embarks on reviving all stalled cases.
Last week alone, EACC reopened more than 35 files relating to corruption and abuse of office after the affected governors rushed to court and secured injunctions, effectively stalling the cases.
The latest move heralds a new chapter in the fight against graft in the devolved units.
Already, the arrest of former Nyandarua governor Waithaka Mwangi on Thursday and that of Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong a fortnight ago has thrown several of their colleagues into panic, prompting the governors’ umbrella body, the Council of Governors (CoG), to demand that the county government bosses be accorded immunity against prosecution while in office.
Mr Waithaka was on Friday charged in a Nakuru anti-corruption court with “willful failure to comply with the law relating to the procurement, contrary to Section 48 of the Economic Crimes Act, 2003”.
Mr Ojaamong has been accused of engaging a company known as Madam R Enterprise to conduct a feasibility study on waste management which the county government had not budgeted for.
In the process, the county government lost Sh8 million. Mr Ojaamong and his co-accused allegedly committed the offences between March 15 and September 25, 2014.
They faced other charges including willful failure to comply with the law relating to management of public funds and fraudulent acquisition of public property.
Other sitting and former governors likely to be on EACC’s radar include Dr Alfred Mutua, Dr Evans Kidero, Messrs Mwangi wa Iria, Samuel Ragwa, Godana Doyo, Nathif Jama, Nyaga Wambora, Okoth Obado and Cyprian Awiti.
In January, sleuths from EACC raided two homes of Mr Ragwa in Tharaka-Nithi County and carted away documents they believe could give them useful leads in graft cases during his tenure.
There were similar raids at the home of former Isiolo governor Godana Doyo in March last year as the commission sought documents relating to a Sh271 million road project which was never started.
Two years earlier, Mr Doyo had been arraigned in court and charged with economic crimes and abuse of office before Meru Principal Magistrate Bernard Ochieng.
In 2015, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua was dragged to court over claims of single-sourcing and overpricing 14 vehicles for use by the county executive committee members. At some point, the Appeal Court stopped his imminent arrest.
Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria too has had a case touching on misappropriation of funds pitting him against the EACC.
These are among the cases EACC will be pursuing with more gusto.
Former Garissa governor Nathif Jama has cause to worry too over procurement of ambulances. Also on the spot over procurement of ambulances is former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto.
A source at the commission said Embu Governor Martin Wambora is equally on their radar.
Last year, the commission unsuccessfully sought to have assets belonging to former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero frozen.
Other governors whose assets EACC wanted frozen include Migori’s Okoth Obado and wa Iria.
EACC detectives have also camped in Homa Bay County investigating alleged corruption in Mr Awiti’s administration.
DIVERSION OF FUNDS
EACC chairman Eliud Wabukala and CEO Halakhe Waqo recently told the Senate committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights that they had recommended the arrest and prosecution of three sitting governors and one former governor for abuse of office, economic crimes and diversion of public resources.
"These are not the petty corruption files but they are all serious files which have been investigated over the last one or two years. Some of them have been suspended because of court orders but they were lifted. In the days to come more files will be forwarded to DPP which also carry similar weight," Mr Waqo told the senators.
When contacted yesterday, the Rev Wabukala would not be drawn into details of the planned operation, only saying: “The current energy and enthusiasm to fight graft is a welcome window of opportunity for EACC to spearhead and curtail the menace of corruption in the country.”
The new impetus, Sunday Nation learnt, is part of a calculated strategy by the commission to reclaim its space after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) appeared to overshadow it in recent times.
An investigating officer told the Sunday Nation that majority of the county chiefs are being pursued for flouting procurement laws, in some cases brazenly awarding tenders to companies that were not prequalified and whose directors were related to the governors.
“There is a case where a county government paid a contractor upfront yet in the end, the actual work was never done. It was an outright rip off,” the officer told the Sunday Nation.
A number of counties have been faulted over the manner they bought ambulances whose subsequent customisation gave room for price manipulations, the officer said.
EACC is also investigating cases of outright nepotism in the management of county government affairs.
Here, the governors openly flouted procurement laws by influencing the award of tenders to companies owned by their close relatives.
In other cases, the county bosses influenced the employment of their close relatives.
Following Mr Ojaamong’s arrest, the CoG was up in arms demanding immunity against prosecution for governors.
“The best practice in jurisdictions that are devolved is that the heads of both levels of government have immunity on civil and criminal proceedings while they are in office,” said the CoG chairman and Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok at a press conference.
He and his colleagues charged that the national government was orchestrating arbitrary arrests against them with the aim of embarrassing them, and not necessarily fighting corruption.
EACC says it is already conducting lifestyle audits among senior county officials to explain the source of their wealth with a view to flagging suspicious ones, including investments.
President Uhuru Kenyatta last month ordered similar audits for top civil servants and procurement staff, in the process sending all State directors of procurements on compulsory leave.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko supported the ongoing investigations targeting governors, saying only those who have pilfered public resources should fear EACC’s dragnet.
Highly-placed sources at the EACC said they were taking advantage of the prevailing goodwill brought about by the rare cooperation between the two arms of government, the Executive and the Judiciary in the war on graft.
During the National Prayer Breakfast on May 31, Chief Justice David Maraga said: “We know the President is spearheading this war against corruption, and I want to say, you can count on Judiciary in the fight. We are together in this fight because we know it is in the interest of the nation.”
Mr Maraga’s stance has, however, attracted criticism from some members of the bar who feel he’s getting too cosy with the Executive.
EACC’s hope is that the order may minimise, if not eliminate, the myriad instances when those facing corruption charges have in the past obtained court orders at the eleventh hour cushioning them from arrest.
And intent on fast-tracking the judicial processes, Justice Maraga on July 20 directed that all new corruption cases are all heard and determined in Nairobi “in the interest of effective case management and expeditious disposal of cases in the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court.”
“All new cases relating to corruption and economic crimes shall be filed in the Principal Registry of the Division at Nairobi for hearing and determination,” the CJ said in a notice in the Kenya Gazette.