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NYS: Fireworks expected as Waiguru faces House team

Sunday October 9 2016

Ms Waiguru resigned last November on “health grounds” and has declared her intention to vie for the Kirinyaga Governor post next year. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Former Devolution CS Anne Waiguru responds to questions during an interview with the Nation on August 30, 2016. Ms Waiguru resigned last November on “health grounds” and has declared her intention to vie for the Kirinyaga Governor post next year. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOHN NJAGI
By JOHN NJAGI
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WANJOHI GITHAE
By WANJOHI GITHAE
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The explosive revelations surrounding the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal are expected to reach a climax this week when former powerful Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru appears before the Public Accounts Committee.

This comes after several individuals linked to the NYS scandal appeared before PAC and accused Ms Waiguru of having played an even bigger role in the scandal than has been acknowledged in the loss of at least Sh791 million in fraudulent transactions.

Ms Waiguru resigned last November on “health grounds” and has declared her intention to vie for the Kirinyaga Governor post next year.

Despite previously appearing several times before parliamentary committees and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Ms Waiguru has always maintained her innocence.   

In various interviews, she has described herself as a whistle blower who has already moved on from the scandal that remains a headache to the Jubilee government that put a revamped NYS at the center of its youth agenda.

At PAC, she will be expected to defend herself against a litany of accusations made by former officials at NYS and suppliers accused of benefiting from fraudulent transactions.

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Also expected is former Devolution Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti, who was the accounting officer when the scandal took place.

Committee chairman Nicholas Gumbo said they may be forced to alter the programme as Mr Mangiti has asked for two or more days to share his side of the story.

“We expect them next week. Some key witnesses have asked for two to three days to be able to offer exhaustive testimony. We may be forced to do a modification to our programme, it may be hard for now to give specific dates when each person will appear before the committee,” he said.

Also expected to appear is Ms Josephine Kabura whose companies were implicated in the scandal — which is now thought to have cost the taxpayer at least Sh1.5 billion and not the Sh791 million that was originally thought to have been stolen.

This comes as the spotlight shines on EACC, and the Director of Public Prosecutions and their efforts to unravel the scandal.

Questions remain on whether fresh investigations will be opened against Ms Waiguru and former NYS deputy director Adan Harakhe.

During the PAC hearings, allegations emerged that Ms Waiguru may have enlisted four companies that reportedly won tenders amounting to over Sh3 billion, according to details given to the committee.

MISTAKES DURING PROBE
The fresh information emerged during a closed-door session on Thursday, as former NYS Director-General Nelson Githinji gave submissions.

The fresh information, however, remains mere allegations as they are yet to be tested through investigations.

Former EACC chairman Philip Kinisu had in March said investigations in the scandal had been reviewed to rope in Ms Waiguru after an affidavit by Ms Kabura was filed in court in February.

Ms Waiguru had earlier been cleared and designated as a witness.

Mr Kinisu, who himself has since been ousted over dealings between NYS and a company he is associated with, admitted in Parliament that mistakes were made during the investigations.

On Saturday, EACC spokesman Kairichi Marimba told the Sunday Nation investigations were still being carried out.

“All files are open. Investigations are ongoing and you can’t really put a timeline. NYS investigations have many aspects and dynamics, they are not yet concluded.

"If new evidence comes out, like what has been happening in Parliament, that opens a new line of investigation. NYS matters are many and they are at various stages of investigation,” he said.

He could not, however, say whether what Mr Harakhe and Mr Githinji said in Parliament had ever been shared with EACC, saying he needed more time to ascertain that.

Also under scrutiny is the office of the DPP Keriako Tobiko, which cleared Mr Harakhe, at least according to proceedings by the parliamentary oversight team.

This is especially after it emerged he may have approved fraudulent payments amounting to Sh1.8 billion.

TENDER AWARD

Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Director Ndegwa Muhoro told the committee that the DPP advised him to drop Mr Harakhe as a suspect and hold him as a witness, meaning he was cleared of criminal responsibility regarding the theft at the NYS.

The dramatic manner of Mr Harakhe’s appointment and his supposed reporting lines have drawn fresh scrutiny to Ms Waiguru.

Dr Githinji, who was his immediate boss, testified that his number two reported directly to the Cabinet Secretary and not to him as protocol dictated. 

The office of the Auditor-General also came under scrutiny after it appeared to have missed some of the companies that won lucrative tenders and the individuals behind them, in its special audit ordered by PAC.

These include the three companies that allegedly belong to Dr Githinji’s wife and sister-in law, and irregular award of a publicity tender to a company associated with political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi, among others.

There was no mention of the three companies, which the former NYS boss denied were linked to his wife or relatives, or the fact that Mr Ngunyi’s firm, which was paid Sh40 million, for coming up with a strategy paper, started work before it had formally won the tender.

Another former Director-General of the NYS, who also appeared to have been a victim of its revolving door, Mr Japhter Rugut, said a launch for Mr Ngunyi’s firm Consulting House tender was held at State House, before it was official that it had won the tender.

“There were instructions from Ms Waiguru that no other firm apart from Consulting House should be awarded the tender which forced me to sign the contract agreement, which was after the company had already started work and its launch held at State House,” he told PAC, when he appeared before it on Thursday.

OTHER SUSPECTS

The fiasco that led to his ouster from office also came to light, revealing to the committee that he was ejected “on a Sunday morning” after arriving at his office and finding Dr Githinji had already occupied his office.

“Even our house-helps, even if they have consumed chakula ya mtoto (baby’s food), are treated better on facing the sack. My leaving did not help matters since the chakula ya mtoto was eaten anyway,” he said, causing laughter.

Dr Githinji also got a taste of his own medicine when Mr Harakhe arrived on the scene, reportedly wielding more powers than his “boss” and reporting directly to the minister, rendering the chief executive officer a mere bystander.

Others who have appeared before the committee include controversial businessman Ben Gethi, whose firms are alleged to have won contracts worth millions fraudulently.

Others that are yet to appear include former Banking Fraud Investigation Unit detector Joseph Mugwanja, alleged to have been used by Ms Waiguru, and Mr Mangiti for cover-up, Samuel Wachenje, and an Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) official, who opened an account at Family Bank under an alias Sam Mwandime, receiving hundreds of millions from NYS fraudulently.

Another key person is the chairman of the ministerial Tender Committee at the Ministry of Devolution Hassan Noor, who is alleged to have played an important role in the transactions, as most of the contracts where zeroes were allegedly added, converting small amounts to astronomical figures, and paid to fictitious companies, were allegedly approved by the tender team.