Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Ann Waiguru had a rough time as she sought to clear her name over the Sh1.6 billion National Youth Service scandal, when she appeared before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday.
In a day-long session, Ms Waiguru repeatedly protested her innocence and laid the blame on former NYS Director-General Nelson Githinji and, to a lesser extent, former Devolution Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti.
Ms Waiguru was also at pains to exonerate former NYS Senior Deputy Director-General Adan Harakhe from any role in the scandal.
The former CS went on the offensive from the onset, accusing the committee of taking a preconceived position that she was the architect of the scam.
“Some members of this committee seem to have a preconceived motive. In one of the sessions, a member of this committee repeatedly asked a witness: ‘Why are you not telling us about Waiguru?’” she said, referring to Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire.
Ms Waiguru also made reference to the team’s meeting on Tuesday with Ms Josephine Kabura, a businesswoman accused of stealing Sh1.6 billion through several suppliers of materials to the NYS. She said an attempt was made to link her to Ms Kabura.
The allegations appeared to rub the MPs the wrong way, with Mr Bosire, Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi and Suba MP John Mbadi, accusing the former minister of seeking to gag the committee.
“The standing orders require us to exercise impartiality. It appears to me the witness has a problem with not only some MPs but this committee and the chairman. She is trying to insinuate that this committee has compromised itself,” said Mr Mbadi.
This prompted the committee chairman, Mr Nicholas Gumbo, to reassure Ms Waiguru that her rights would be protected.
“No one is here to abuse your rights. In fact, I do not have to protect your rights, they are protected by the Constitution,” said Mr Gumbo, who is the Rarieda MP.
Ms Waiguru went on to accuse the committee of entertaining falsehoods from witnesses who have appeared before it previously, singling out Dr Githinji, Ms Kabura and businessman Ben Gethi.
“We have witnessed propaganda through the media for one-and-a-half years. Ben Gethi was a witness. He made allegations that I’m the one who fixed him through the DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations). Gethi is facing 26 charges through four different institutions, including the KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority). Am I the one who fixed him with the KRA?” she posed.
At this juncture, Mr Gumbo asked Ms Waiguru to restrict her testimony to the committee’s proceedings and not what was published in the media.
Undeterred, Ms Waiguru turned the heat on Dr Githinji, accusing him of lying to the committee that he was never in control at the NYS.
“Nelson Githinji claimed that he was not in control at the NYS. Dr Githinji was the director-general and AIE (Authority to Incur Expenditure) holder when the Sh791 million was stolen,” she said.
She proceeded to defend Mr Harakhe against claims that he was the AIE holder when the funds were stolen.
“By the time Harakhe was made the AIE holder, Sh791 million had already been transferred. The media has created the impression that Harakhe was brought to the NYS to facilitate the theft,” she said.
Ms Waiguru further accused Dr Githinji of continuing to authorise payments at the NYS even after the authority to do so had been transferred to Mr Harakhe.
This claim would later land her in trouble with some members and chairman Gumbo, who had earlier told her that there were documents to prove that some payments were authorised by Mr Harakhe.
Mr Gumbo had at the beginning of the session said: “Let us not engage in a mechanical exercise as in the case of a very obscure individual, Josephine Kabura, who came here and tried to convince us that because of her hard work, she managed to make Sh1.6 billion just under 14 months.”