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Who’s next on chopping list? Curse of heading City Hall finance docket

Saturday January 25 2020

City Finance exec Pauline Kahiga

An undated picture of Nairobi's Finance Executive Pauline Kahiga. PHOTO | COLLINS OMULO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

COLLINS OMULO
By COLLINS OMULO
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The recent attempt to oust Ms Pauline Kahiga as the Nairobi County Finance executive was just a matter of when and not if.

The Finance office at City Hall has had six occupiers in just over two years since Governor Mike Sonko took charge.

At the heart of the constant reshuffles are tenders, wheeler-dealing and the financial muscle of the office, which controls the budget appropriated by the county assembly.

The office has also had the most reshuffles and suspensions, with Ms Kahiga’s attempted removal on Monday and subsequent replacement by Trade executive Allan Igambi adding to the “jinxed department” tag.

SUPER CEC

Ms Kahiga had been at the helm since last September, when she replaced Mr Charles Kerich, albeit in an acting capacity.

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This followed the suspension of Mr Kerich, who was making a second stint at the office.

At the time of his suspension, Mr Kerich — Governor Sonko’s Mr Fix It and Super CEC — had been at the helm of the department for less than four months.

RESHUFFLE

The inaugural Finance CEC Vesca Kangogo led the department for just three months before being hounded out of office in February, 2018 through a Cabinet reshuffle.

Ms Kangogo was replaced by Mr Danvas Makori but the latter’s reign did not last long. He was first suspended for two weeks before being sacked in April for allegedly working with “Governor Sonko’s enemies”.

Mr Newton Munene, the current ICT and e-government executive, was vetted and approved by MCAs to take over from Mr Makori but he was never sworn in.

Instead, Mr Kerich took over in an acting capacity, going on to present the first budget of Mr Sonko’s administration in July. With the mission done, he was quickly replaced by Mr Igambi, who held the docket up to March last year.

He was then replaced by Ms Winfred Gathagu as the substantive CEC in April, but her stint lasted only a month before she was replaced by Mr Kerich, now as substantive CEC, with the budget reading looming.

He headed the docket delivering the second City Hall budget under Mr Sonko, staying on until his suspension two months later.

KIDERO'S TERM

The office has had five substantive CECs and a further three executives in an acting capacity since Mr Sonko took over.

Although the office never experienced such high turnover during Governor Evans Kidero’s term, those who served then have cases in court over financial malpractices.

Mr Gregory Mwakanongo was the Finance executive, while Mr Luke Gatimu and Mr Jimmy Kiamba serving as chief finance officers.

Last year, a Nairobi court ordered Mr Kiamba to surrender Sh318 million in ill-gotten wealth to the government.

Justice Hedwig Ong’udi ruled that Mr Kiamba could not explain how he acquired his massive wealth, which the anti-graft body said was looted from the county coffers.

He amassed properties and cash deposits in bank accounts worth more than Sh1 billion in a period of three years from monthly remuneration of Sh145,000.

MONEY DEMANDS

A former holder of the position says the problem in the docket is constant demand for more money than what is available, which makes people resort to lobbying.

“Sometimes the lobbying is direct. Other times it is through proxies, including county assembly members. If the holder of the office is strict and a stickler for the law, that CEC will inevitably rub people the wrong way and they push for his removal,” said the former CEC.

Imara Daima MCA Kennedy Obuya, who was one of the more than 10 MCAs who stormed Ms Kahiga’s office, accused the Finance executive of frustrating operations at City Hall.

“We cannot have a county where all systems are stuck. We cannot pay county government workers because she has refused. MCAs also do not have insurance yet we pay premiums,” said Mr Obuya.

But it turned out that Ms Kahiga’s woes stemmed from her refusal to use Sh1.4 billion to settle pending bills.