Almost all gold chains worth hundreds of millions of shillings worn by mayors and chairmen in the defunct local governments cannot be traced.
Information obtained by the Sunday Nation indicates that only Embu and Bungoma municipalities returned theirs to the Transition Authority, the body mandated by law to secure all assets of the bodies that were replaced by the 47 county governments after the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010.
A preliminary report by the Authority points to massive looting by officials in the local governments before they were wound up. The report shows that other assets were also stolen at a time the country’s attention was fast shifting to the devolved structures.
It turns out that in the affected Authorities — the former town clerks — never handed over to the county governments when they left office.
As a result, Transition Authority boss Kinuthia Wamwangi says they have embarked on a mission to recover all the chains and other assets before the expiry of the Authority’s term next March.
FORMER TOWN CLERKS
“We have summoned former town clerks to help with the investigation. It is possible that most of them [the chains] were stolen, but our final report would give the accurate picture,” he said.
The fact that nearly all the 135 city councils, municipalities and townships that had a mayor or a chairman also had a gold or gold plated chain means that the country could have lost money whose estimated value could even surpass a billion mark.
“We are determined to recover these assets for they belong to the public,” he said.
If found guilty, officials of the local governments could be arraigned in court or be forced to pay for the loss. Nairobi’s mayoral chain alone was worth Sh150 million while those owned by the other bodies cost at least Sh10 million each.
Mr Wamwangi said finance executive officers in all the counties would also be called upon to disclose the kind of assets they inherited from the older system since they are the custodians of assets.
Before the disappearance of the insignias, there had been a number of break-ins and robberies targeting the chains.
In addition to Nairobi’s City Hall, robbers gained entry into the offices of Malindi’s municipal council before handcuffing two watchmen and breaking in and stealing the chain.
In 2006, former Nairobi mayor Dick Waweru and town clerk Godfrey Mate were charged with stealing the Sh9.8million mayoral gold chain bought after the previous one was stolen and were accused of duping the City Council into buying a new mayoral chain.
They were not convicted.