The Senate Friday night impeached Embu Governor Martin Wambora after a committee found him guilty of three of the five charges levelled against him.
But the Senators found no evidence to sack his deputy Dorothy Nditi, clearing the path for her to become Kenya’s first female governor.
The committee found Mr Wambora, a former provincial administrator, guilty of violating public procurement and public finance management laws as well as the Constitution.
It was sweet victory for Ms Nditi, whose sacking the County Assembly had also recommended. She would now serve the remainder of Mr Wambora’s term and appoint a new deputy.
Moving the motion, chairman of the special senate committee Boni Khalwale said they had found Mr Wambora guilty of three allegations made against him by the Embu County Assembly.
Dr Khalwale, while imploring on the Senate members to adopt the report and send the governor home, tore into the character of Mr Wambora — who once served as an altar boy — saying he had refused to live by the oath he swore to protect the Constitution of Kenya as well as public funds.
The committee, he said, was abhorred by the casual manner in which the governor had managed county affairs, leaving his juniors to do as they pleased yet he was the chief executive.
The motion was supported by Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) who said Mr Wambora was like an Alice in Wonderland on the management of the county.
The senator said the governor dismissed the loss of millions of shillings as “small things” and answered “it wasn’t me” each time he was told to respond to accusations.
He however said the Embu County Assembly was not innocent and asked the Senate to constitute a committee and demand for an audit of its finances “for the sake of fairness”.
Siaya Senator James Orengo while also supporting the motion said, “Governor Wambora must go home, he does not know his responsibility”.
Mr Kimani wa Matangi (Kiambu) accused the governor of breaching procurement laws. “The officer in charge of agriculture recommended the procurement of eight tonnes of maize seed but that was doubled,” he said. Mr Johnstone Muthama (Machakos) supported the report, saying Machakos county had more issues than Embu.
“More issues are bound to come and they are on the way,” said Mr Muthama. “But today we are saying Governor Wambora go home and look for another job.”
Nominated Senator Martha Wangari said history will judge senators harshly if ‘we sit and watch public funds plundered.’
Turkana’s John Munyes said all counties are facing a similar problem.
“Turkana was the first but the House downplayed the impunity being perpetuated by governor (Josephat) Nanok,” said Mr Munyes. “I want to tell this House to get ready because another one is coming from the north.”
Bungoma’s Moses Wetang’ula said the case was unprecedented. Prof Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu) warned of many threats against devolution.
“There is tremendous malaise in the counties that we are afraid to talk about but I am happy we are dealing with one here,” he said.
Majority leader Kithure Kindiki said he supported the motion with a heavy heart.
ATTACKS ON ALL SIDES
“Of all the duties we have to do as senators, the most painful one is to remove a public officer from office...Let justice be done. It is with a heavy heart that I support this motion,” he said.
West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo and his Migori counterpart Wilfred Machage said the buck stops with the governor and the decision that will be taken should send a signal to all leaders that no one is above the law.
Mr George Khaniri (Vihiga) challenged governors to manage resources well.
“If they are unable to do so, they should either shape up or ship out,” he said.
Kisii Senator Chris Obure said from the report, he was convinced that Mr Wambora was guilty of the three charges that had been levelled against him.
“I am convinced more than ever that he has not passed the ethics and integrity test,” he said.
Mr David Musila (Kitui), said: “Mr Wambora has failed to provide leadership in the management of the affairs of his county.”
Others who supported the motion included Senators Billow Kerrow (Mandera), Abdulrahman Hassan (Wajir), Mike Sonko (Nairobi), Daisy Nyongesa (Nominated), Beatrice Elachi (Nominated) and Joy Gwendo (Nominated).
Responding to the charges, Mr Wambora argued that the threshold for impeachment for all the three charges had not been reached. “That should be the last level for punishing the governor,” he said.
He accused the County Assembly of malice, claiming the Assembly members were hitting back after he exposed irregularities among them.
“There was malice in trying to fix the governor for discovering financial impropriety…the County Assembly members were paying illegal funds not grounded on any framework of law,” he claimed.
He cited an ‘impeccable’ record in public service, terming the governor’s job as just one of the many titles he has held.
He said great leaders focus on policy issues. “I am a firm believer that great leaders don’t get involved in details but focus on vision, policy and mission. I do oversight to ensure things are moving well,” he said.
He said most of the allegations made against him covered a period when there were challenges and confusion in the transition to County governments. “I am taking the bullet but I will leave this place with my head high,” he said.
His lawyer Mr Wilfred Nyamu, said the Senate report could be challenged in court. “You are a body whose report is subject to High Court determination,” he said.
The lawyer warned that forcing the governor to take responsibility of acts of county officers was dangerous. “If this passes it will be very easy for a political competitor of a Governor to tell the accounting officer ‘you mess up’ so that the governor can be impeached,” said Mr Nyamu.
The voting started at around 20 minutes to 11pm. One by one, the members were called alphabetically to state whether Mr Wambora was guilty on the three charges, and all voted in the affirmative.
By Dave Opiyo, Caroline Wafula and Kenfrey Kiberenge.