Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu on Thursday became the fourth sitting governor to record a statement over abuse-of-office charges recently.
The governor, who was arrested early morning at his Kiambu Road residence, was brought to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) headquarters at midday and was later released on anticipatory bail.
With the EACC having retaken the lead in the fight against corruption and a new boss at the helm, indicators are that more county chiefs will be dragged to court to answer to charges of abuse of office.
Also on the EACC’s radar are Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, Kitui’s Charity Ngilu and Tharaka-Nithi’s Muthomi Njuki.
Mr Wa Iria has already recorded a statement regarding the purchase of a 34-acre piece of land in Kabati at an alleged inflated price of Sh340 million.
Ms Ngilu has been questioned on allegations of procurement irregularities in the supply and delivery of five trucks at a cost of Sh59,750,000.
Mr Njuki, on the other hand, was questioned over the procurement of an incinerator said to have been bought for Sh4 million and sold to the county for Sh34 million.
In a day of high drama, EACC detectives raided two of Mr Waititu’s homes — one on Kiambu Road and another at Garden Estate — and ransacked them for five hours.
Search operations were also conducted in the county offices and homes of the county chief’s family members, directors of private companies, and 10 senior employees.
The Council of Governors expressed its displeasure at how Mr Waititu was treated, while also expressing support for the fight against corruption.
“We must make sure that, as governors, we steer clear of corrupt practices. We support the present call on eradicating corruption in this country,” said COG chair and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
KAA SOBER SCHEME
Mr Waititu, EACC Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak said, irregularly awarded tenders worth Sh588 million to companies associated with him and his immediate family members.
Sources indicated that 15 other county officials are targeted in the ongoing investigations, which began a while back.
This week, some current and former county officials appeared before the EACC and recorded statements over alleged graft.
Mr Waititu has also been on the EACC sleuths’ radar over alleged questionable expenditure for, among other things, the controversial Kaa Sober programme, which cost over Sh2 million per day, without the county assembly’s approval, contrary to the Public Finance Management Act.
The arrest came a day after the Kiambu County Assembly hurriedly passed a supplementary budget in which it approved an expenditure of Sh722 million under the controversial programme.
The MCAs’ action, which also raised the county’s annual budget from Sh15.6 billion to Sh16.9 billion, was widely seen as a scheme to sanitise the controversial expenditure in which millions of shillings are suspected to have been lost.
“Preliminary investigations show that contractors paid monies to senior county officials, their companies or relatives through proxies,” Mr Mbarak said in a statement.
Already, Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal has been charged with abuse of office, and proceedings to recover ill-gotten assets are underway in court.
Two former governors have also been charged in court — Dr Evans Kidero (Nairobi) and Mr Waithaka Mwangi (Nyandarua).
Mr Mwangi faces charges of abuse of office, flouting the Public Procurement and Disposal Act and failing to comply with laws regarding the management of public funds in the awarding of a tender worth Sh50,470,513 to Tahal Consulting Engineers Ltd, Chen Yochanan Ofer and Albert Attias to redesign the Ol Kalou town sewerage system.
The tender has been cited as irregular because it had not been planned nor budgeted for during the 2013/2014 financial year.
On Tuesday, Mr Wa Iria presented himself to the EACC two days in advance.
The EACC central region Manager Charles Rasugu said the governor had been summoned to appear Thursday and detectives were surprised when he appeared on Tuesday evening.
Mr Rasugu added that at least 30 other county government officials have already recorded their statements in relation to the controversial land transaction that prompted an impeachment motion against the governor in 2015.
“It is a serious case. Senior officials in the devolved unit like executive committee members and chief officers, county secretary and several others have been questioned,” said Mr Rasugu.
“The land was bought at Sh340 million. There was a complaint to the effect that the procurement procedures were not right. Investigations are still ongoing. The governor is one of the people (who will) record statements and assist in the investigations,” he added.
Reporting by Vincent Achuka, Nyambega Gisesa, Joseph Wangui, Eric Wainaina.