Faced with calls to tame runaway corruption in the civil service, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday took a bold step and directed all government procurement officers to step aside and undergo fresh vetting.
Those targeted in the purge and who are required to immediately hand over to their deputies work in ministries, departments, agencies and State corporations.
And although they will be paid salaries, they will only be allowed to travel on clearance by the Head of Public Service according to the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU), they are further required to submit personal information to help in investigations.
The President’s order comes days after he said more heads would roll in the war against the vice adding that procurement officials who fail polygraph tests would be sent home.
This is in the wake of financial scandals at agencies including the National Cereals and Produce Board, National Youth Service, Kenya Pipeline Company and Kenya Power.
In a statement to newsrooms, Government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe through Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka placed a Friday deadline to have the officials submit information on their personal assets, liabilities and previous records of service.
Mr Njoka said the vetting to be conducted in a month’s time will be respectful to the constitutional rights of those affected.
“Whereas the exercise is geared towards determining suitability to continue holding a public office and promote public confidence in the public service, the same will be undertaken in an objective manner, exercised with due care and regard to officers’ rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” Mr Njoka said.
The President has been under pressure to slay the dragon of corruption which has permeated many spheres of his administration, denting the government’s image.
During last Friday’s Madaraka Day celebrations in Meru, President Kenyatta had assured that more senior government officials will be arrested in the war against corruption.
He declared that he had personally drawn the line on pervasive corruption and challenged Parliament, Judiciary and other multi-agency teams tasked with fighting graft to do the same.
He promised a fully-fledged fight on the vice which he likened to colonialism saying “in the end, it must be dealt with firmly.”
The President said he was happy with the arrests made so far adding that he would not condone such individuals in his administration.
Notable personalities arrested and charged in court over the NYS scam are Permanent Secretary Lilian Mbogo Omollo and Director General Richard Ndumbai.
Yesterday’s order is seen as an affirmation by the Head of State to put more effort in the fight against corruption in his second and final term as he seeks to leave a good legacy.
“The President is committed to creating a public service that serves the needs and aspirations of Kenyans without taking undue advantage of their offices to enrich or otherwise benefit themselves,” Mr Njoka said.
Under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, a person charged can be fined up to Sh1 million fine and a jail term of up to 10 years or both if found guilty. Such a person would also vacate his/her position and will be banned from holding a public post.
In 2015, a dossier with names of Cabinet Secretaries, Governors and Principal Secretaries linked to corruption, which had been given to the President as a classified copy by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Chief Executive Officer Halakhe Waqo, was tabled in Parliament as part of the State of the Nation address.
By February 2016, a report by EACC stated that close to 200 people on the list of shame had been charged with corruption and abuse of office. All cases were investigated and action taken on at least 61 per cent of them.
The status report says some suspects were taken to court while others had their cases referred back to EACC for further investigations. There are those who were set free and even cleared to contest in the August 2017 General Election.
President Kenyatta has many times defended his record in fighting corruption, insisting he had allowed relevant government agencies sufficient space to deter the crime.
At a corruption summit in October 2016, he claimed his government has done more than all previous administrations since independence in fighting graft.