President Uhuru Kenyatta used an anti-corruption conference at State House, Nairobi, to speak out on the controversial Eurobond saga, dismissing opposition politicians and the Auditor-General and accusing them of pursuing a matter that had long been closed by the relevant financial institutions.
At Tuesday’s meeting, both the President and Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich insisted that all the Sh280 billion raised from the Eurobond had been put to the intended use.
The President spoke two days after Raila Odinga, the leader of the opposition coalition Cord, said Kenya should not be allowed to borrow money through a second Eurobond before accounting for the money it borrowed in 2014.
In a statement to the Nation on Sunday, Mr Odinga had said: “The government and the National Treasury have persistently failed to accurately and completely account for the net proceeds of the Eurobond.
“The failures in respect of the first Eurobond constitute material and significant breaches of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the Public Finance Management Act 2012.”
Auditor-General Edward Ouko had indicated that he wanted to travel to New York to interview Federal Reserve Bank officials, following claims that they could have taken part in falsifying Kenya’s records.
Mr Ouko said that his work was to simply determine the authenticity of statements already presented by the government concerning the transactions so he can file a final report on the matter.
Criticising Mr Ouko, President Kenyatta said: “Na huyu amesema anataka kuenda kuinterrogate (And this man here says he wants to interrogate) Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Ngai! (My God!) Anyway, you know, you sit back and you ask yourself, are we being serious in what we are doing?”
The accountability summit was meant as an occasion for the government to demonstrate how it is fighting corruption.
However, it was punctuated by accusations and counter-accusations by government officials more keen to defend their respective turfs against allegations of incompetence, and blaming others for the failure to tackle corruption.
President Kenyatta said he had done his part and blamed various agencies for failing to do theirs.
“When we sit down, and I challenge all the agencies here, they say we don’t have the resources, we don’t have this and that. I challenge them here to stand up and say we have been denied the resources we need,” he said.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chief executive Halakhe Waqo and Asset Recovery Agency Director Muthoni Kimani all argued that they have done a wonderful job of presenting 823 people and 22 firms to court.
However, they said efforts to prosecute the accused were being frustrated by judges.
Justice Paul Kihara, the president of the Court of Appeal, disagreed, saying judges or magistrates are not to blame if suspects walk free.
“Yes, we have the biggest backlog but part of the reason these cases take long is because we have problems when these cases come to us. The investigations in many cases [are] appalling,” he said.
Mr Rotich lambasted his critics, especially former anti-corruption czar John Githongo and economist David Ndii, for continuing to argue that the government has not accounted for all the Eurobond proceeds.
Dr Ndii, in his Saturday Nation columns, has insisted that the government had failed to clarify how some of the money was wired from New York to Nairobi and what it was used for.
“No single cent was lost. On this transaction, he (David Ndii) had a frame of mind from what he has written. They wanted to use this transaction to their own gain,” Mr Rotich claimed without elaborating.
“But the facts are there… Are you saying the Feds of the US are doing money-laundering? Are you saying that JP Morgan can do money laundering?”
However, President Kenyatta was not amused by accusations that officials in his administration diverted part of the Eurobond money, arguing that the claims amounted to a political witch-hunt.
“When you go out there and you say Eurobond money was stolen and is stashed in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, are you telling me that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States have colluded? Mjinga ni nani? (Who is fooling who?)” he asked.
“Corruption should not be used for politics. If you have a thing against me, campaign properly.”