Deputy President William Ruto and former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru exchanged bitter words over the Sh791 million National Youth Service (NYS) scandal on Saturday.
Mr Ruto threw the first salvo, telling Ms Waiguru to take responsibility for the scandal as she was the one in charge of the NYS project when the millions of shillings were stolen.
Speaking in Tetu Constituency in Nyeri County, Mr Ruto was categorical that it was Ms Waiguru who presided over the scandal and warned that the government would ensure the culprits are prosecuted.
“Mahali ambapo kulitokea wizi kama ile ilitokea NYS ikiongozwa na yule Madam Waiguru sisi tumesema kulitokea wizi na tumepeleka watu kortini.Wale wako kule ni lazima waajibike because we are an open Cabinet lakini sio watu kutuletea ukora (Where theft took place like at NYS led by that Madam Waiguru, we have admitted theft occurred and we have taken people to court. Those who are there must be held accountable and should not play games with us),” he said.
To hammer the point home, Mr Ruto switched to English, insisting that it was Ms Waiguru who presided over the scandal that appears to have divided the Jubilee Government into two camps, one allied to President Kenyatta and the other to the DP.
“What happened in NYS led by Anne Waiguru, we admit it happened and investigations were launched. Some have been taken to Parliament, others are in court and we will ensure there are prosecutions,” he emphasised.
But Ms Waiguru fired back on Saturday, telling Mr Ruto to let the law take its course and not to influence the outcome of the investigations.
“This is my response; prosecutions are based on evidence and the law, period. And the fact will not be changed by politics. I laid my facts in the PAC as was expected,” she stated in a short text message (SMS) to the Sunday Nation.
“The last time I checked, investigations are left to independent bodies unless he intends to influence the outcome. On financial responsibility, I respectfully refer him to the PFM law and the Constitution and I believe this country is governed by the rule of law. Finally, I did not mention his office, I referred to individuals based on facts and not allegations,” she went on.
The exchange was the culmination of a week characterised by accusations and counter-accusations as high profile suspects in the scandal appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with Ms Waiguru taking the battle to Mr Ruto’s doorstep by linking two of his closest allies to the heist.
Appearing before PAC on Thursday, Ms Waiguru fell short of directly linking the DP to the scandal, instead naming his long serving aide Farouk Kibet and his political right hand man Kipchumba Murkomen as part of those who benefited from the loot.
“There were 150 calls between Farouk Kibet and businessman Ben Gethi in the weeks preceding the NYS scam,” she said, referring to a graph she had carried to the session showing the frequency of phone calls between the alleged masterminds of the scandal.
Records submitted to the committee showed Mr Kibet received Sh1 million from Mr Gethi, who is listed as having received the bulk of the looted funds.
She went on to suggest that the masterminds of the scandal were working under very powerful people who she declined to name despite a lot of prompting from the MPs.
“The network is intricate, the manner in which every witness who has come before this committee has been at pains to try and link me to their actions is telling. They have not given any concrete evidence in the form of a signed letter, phone records or a text message. They are clearly working under very powerful instructors or puppeteers and I hope that this committee finds out who these are,” she said.
It was not the first time Ms Waiguru was linking Mr Kibet and Mr Murkomen to the scandal.
In February, the former CS had filed an affidavit at the High Court in Nairobi in which she adversely named the two alongside National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale.
In the affidavit, she claimed that Mr Gethi, like another key suspect in the scandal, Ms Josephine Kabura, had paid Mr Kibet part of the money from the NYS heist.
“During the DCI investigations, there was constant communication between Gethi and Kibet with about 180 phone calls, some lasting for hours between the two,” she stated. Mr Murkomen and Mr Kibet are yet to respond to the latest accusations.
On the day Ms Waiguru repeated the allegations, Mr Murkomen, a popular user of social media, kept off the subject, instead tweeting that he had attended a fundraiser in West Pokot.
“Today I attended a fundraiser organised by Dini ya Mafuta Roho Africa at Jerusalem, Tamugh area, West Pokot,” he said.
He again gave the subject a wide berth two days later, instead tweeting thus: “Yesterday I was in Mogil, Marakwet East, to listen to concerns of insecurity & ways to restore peace & order in Kerio Valley.”
He also failed to respond to numerous phone calls and short text messages sent to him by the Sunday Nation team.
A constant companion of the DP in public functions, Mr Kibet was conspicuously missing at Mr Ruto’s rallies yesterday, with a source saying he spent his day in meetings in Nairobi. Like Mr Murkomen, he failed to pick up our calls or respond to our short text messages.
Kenyans had been treated to a dramatic week in which the main suspects in the scandal appeared before PAC and sought to fix each other or feign ignorance about the scandal.
Ms Waiguru, for instance, maintained that she had never met or interacted with Ms Kabura who had only two days earlier told the committee that it was the former CS who helped her win tenders at the NYS without following procedure.
“I have never met or interacted with the said Josephine Kabura. How can I be in contact with her for seven years as she claims in her affidavit yet there is no single telephone call, SMS or any correspondence between me and her,” she asked.
She seemed to blame former NYS Director-General Nelson Githinji for the scandal while absolving his deputy, Adan Harakhe, from blame.
“Nelson Githinji claimed that he was not in control at NYS. Dr Githinji was the Director-General and AIE (Authority to Incur Expenditure) holder when the Sh791 million was stolen,” she maintained.
She proceeded to defend Mr Harakhe against claims that he was the AIE holder when the funds were stolen.
“By the time Harakhe was made the AIE holder, Sh791 million had already been transferred; the media has created the impression that Harakhe was brought to NYS to facilitate the theft,” she said.
The claim landed her in trouble with the committee chaired by Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo and his Suba counterpart John Mbadi.
Mr Gumbo: “You have told this committee that Harakhe was made the AIE holder on February 19. I have personally tabulated the payments made after this period and do not doubt my tabulation because I am an engineer. My tabulation shows that over Sh140 million was paid out after this period.”
Added an agitated Mr Mbadi: “Why is Harakhe not appearing anywhere, it is Githinji, Wachenje, Githinji, Wachenje.” Mr Samuel Wachenje was the finance director at the troubled institution at the height of the scandal.
Reports by Peter Leftie, Wanjohi Githae, Grace Gitau and John Njagi