D-Day for officials on ‘List of Shame’

Saturday May 23 2015

President Uhuru Kenyatta hands over a report to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi (left) and Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro after the State of the Nation address in Parliament on March 26, 2015. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI

President Uhuru Kenyatta hands over a report to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi (left) and Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro after the State of the Nation address in Parliament on March 26, 2015. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

WALTER MENYA
By WALTER MENYA
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JUSTUS WANGA
By JUSTUS WANGA
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The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is expected to make a major announcement on Sunday on the status of graft investigations involving top government officials.

The announcement is supposed to indicate whether the 175 officials, who include five Cabinet secretaries, will return to office or be prosecuted over corrupt deals.

On Saturday, EACC officials were busy putting final notes on investigation files ahead of Sunday’s media briefing.

With the 60-day ultimatum President Uhuru Kenyatta gave to the anti-graft body to act on the “List of Shame” expiring on Monday, attention is fast shifting to what the Head of State will do next to pursue the war on corruption; failure to act has severely dented the Jubilee government’s credibility.

The nation will be waiting to see the President’s next move given that none of the “big fish” on the list of 175, mostly government officials, has been arraigned in court to face charges.

Both the EACC and the Director of Public prosecution (DPP) Keriako Tobiko are running late. The focus has particularly been on the five Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries on suspension.

Land Secretary Charity Ngilu, her Transport counterpart Michael Kamau, the Energy ministry’s Davis Chirchir, Mr Felix Koskei of Agriculture, and Kazungu Kambi of Labour have been waiting to know their fate since they were forced out of office two months ago.

The suspended PSs are Mr Mutea Iringo (Defence), Mr Nduva Muli (Transport), Mr Patrick Omutia (Mining) and Mr James Teko (Water).

The Public Service Commission is currently conducting interviews for PSs after publishing a list of shortlisted candidates last week.

UNDER PRESSURE

Whereas President Kenyatta appears to have prepared an exit strategy from the beginning — perhaps aware of what he was getting himself into — when he proclaimed that it was “not my place to determine the guilt or otherwise of any of the people mentioned in the said report or any other”, he will increasingly be under pressure to justify his pronouncement to an expectant public.

The President’s deadline to EACC also raised eyebrows as he is not mandated to direct constitutional commissions.

“The investigating authority must ensure that the Director of Public Prosecutions has received the subject files without delay. I also want to caution that this should not be an open-ended process; justice must be expeditious, as justice delayed is justice denied,” the President said in March.

The first challenge Mr Kenyatta must deal with is the likely fallout within the ruling Jubilee coalition, made up of TNA and URP, in the course of slaying the corruption dragon. If he chooses to fire URP-leaning Cabinet secretaries, he may have to consult Deputy President William Ruto whose key lieutenants like Mr Chirchir, Mr Koskei and Mr Kambi are being investigated.

Mr Ruto’s chief of staff Marianne Kittany was also among the casualties as President Kenyatta’s axe landed close to his deputy.

And in case they are axed, Mr Ruto will likely insist on having a say in who takes their positions.

Anything short of this will certainly ruffle feathers within the ruling coalition, especially at a time when there is discontent in the Deputy President’s Rift Valley backyard.

WAIT AND SEE

On the options the Head of State is toying with amid reports of a looming Cabinet reshuffle expected to usher new faces into the Cabinet, State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu asked the nation to wait and see.

“You’re asking me as the President’s spokesman what options the President has. I cannot speculate on what options he has. We will have to wait and see,” he said on Saturday.

As the wait continues, the Sunday Nation has learnt that the EACC chief executive officer Halakhe Waqo is in a race against time preparing to make “a major statement” concerning the status of investigations.

EACC has itself been in disarray following the recent resignation of its three commissioners, leaving the secretariat to do all the work and fomenting debate on its authority to forward files to the DPP.

Instructively, it is Mr Waqo who presented “the List of Shame” to President Kenyatta, and it was in turn handed over to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi during the State of the Nation address to Parliament.

Some observers say the President runs the risk of being seen as having a loud bark and little bite if no radical steps follow the bold move to suspend some of his senior Cabinet secretaries and government officials. 

University of Nairobi political scientist Winnie Mitullah thinks by giving the timeline within which action ought to have been taken, the President threw himself into the deep end.

“It was not politically strategic for him to give such an ultimatum in the first place. He should have let somebody else do it. The danger is that he will lose public confidence if nothing tangible happens at the expiry of the period,” she argues.

Since March 26, when President Kenyatta presented the anti-corruption dossier to Parliament, many of those mentioned, especially Cabinet secretaries, have not had it easy, unaware of what might befall them when the investigation ends.

For them, the 60 days couldn’t have ended soon enough for them to know their fate: a sack, reinstatement or being charged in court. For those still out, the two months have been more than torturous and some have even sought to engage in other activities to keep themselves busy.

On Saturday, Mr Kambi, the Labour CS, captured the sense of anxiety those on suspension have been feeling.

“Before this, I never used to take alcohol. But in the past 60 days, I have started taking a little, as well as a double tot of Johnnie Walker given by my friends. I wish the President could add 30 more days so that I can stay away from the activists at the ministry of Labour.”

He conceded it has been a lonely 60 days during which he has not formally been contacted by anyone on anything, except by the EACC investigators.

Apart from adapting to the new lifestyle, the individuals have also had to deal with lawyers and brokers, all with the same intention to squeeze whatever money they can get from the individuals.

Mr Kambi said he has been able to go back to class to finish some units that he had left pending at the university.

“I have completed my degree, and I will be graduating later in the year. I also hope to register for a post-graduate degree once I have graduated,” he said .

Mrs Ngilu sounded upbeat about her experience. “It is a good opportunity to recharge my batteries and also look at other issues that I had not been paying attention to. In fact, I feel the 60 days are very short,” she said through an aide.

Mr Koskei said he had no comment for now.