Anti-graft fight nearly cost me NSSF board seat: Atwoli

Wednesday March 18 2020

Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli speaks at St Stephen's Cathedral along Jogoo Road in Nairobi on April 28, 2019, during the union's prayer event ahead of Labour Day Celebrations. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Cotu boss Francis Atwoli says the boardroom wars that nearly saw him expelled from the National Social Security Fund were because of his efforts to seal corruption loopholes.

Mr Atwoli, Secretary-General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (Cotu), claimed on Tuesday night that influential politicians mooted a plan to have him removed from the NSSF board because of his tough stance against corruption.

Mr Atwoli said the acting managing director and the rest of team managed to raise NSSF's funds portfolio to Sh260billion, with about Sh190 billion being held by fund managers.

“If I were not there, there could be no NSSF today. They did not want to gazette Jacqueline Mugo and I because they were timing the elections. [They wanted to] all the money,” he said NTV’s Sidebar show hosted by Ken Mijungu at Sarova Whitesands in Mombasa.

“I have had a problem ... and not once. Mugo and I put our foot down and said no money should be stolen from NSSF. We have always been de-gazzetted by the authorities but we have [resolved not to] tired because of that."



“Compare NSSF with NHIF and you will notice the difference," he said.

"At the NHIF, almost everything was taken away at a go for electioneering campaigns. Everyone was going to NHIF, including people sending their girlfriends, to collect money. People have been arrested and taken to court but because we were tough at the board of the NSSF, no single cent left the NSSF [sic]."


The Cotu boss said the NSSF can be used for government projects such as building roads and police houses, and generating electricity.

"It can [be used for many things] and help stop the government from borrowing money left and right. The only problem is that our people have the mentality of trying to steal from where other people keep their money. We have, however, ensured protection against that,” he said.

Regarding his tenure in the NSSF board, Mr Atwoli noted that he was serving his last term and preparing another union leader to take his place.

“I cannot be there all the time as we want to make sure others offer their services to Kenyans,” he said.


On politics, Mr Atwoli told Deputy President William Ruto to stop chest-thumping and find good advisers if he wants to keep his 2022 presidential ambition alive.

He said that Dr Ruto, though a shrewd and smart politician, is surrounded by deceitful advisers "sending his ambition into oblivion".

“Our DP is a brave politician but what he lacks are advisers. I am not saying he cannot win the elections but let him be advised accordingly. He needs to be guided 'like yesterday'."

The Cotu secretary-general also took issue with Dr Ruto's "continued bashing" of politicians allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“He should have put on a brave face and joined the President’s friends instead of bashing them for the purpose of waiting for his time," he said.


Mr Atwoli further told the DP not to fear scrutiny because he is a top public servant.

”You cannot be in a position of influence without scrutiny," he said, adding his political tours across the country, against the President's wish, have created the impression that there can only be two centres of power.

He said this impression would not have been created had Dr Ruto heeded Mr Kenyatta's advise against early campaigning for focus on development.

“In a government like Kenya, when a President is elected, the outgoing President leaves a sword of a symbol of protection to protect those who will be led by the President and their properties," Mr Atwoli explained.

"It is given to only one person. You cannot create two centres of power in the same system. You will confuse the same people you are supposed to lead."