Deputy President William Ruto was Sunday evening under heavy criticism from Members of Parliament for rushing to the defence of Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who is accused of misappropriating close to Sh2.5 billion through questionable expenditure at the county in the last financial year.
A section of MPs questioned the DP’s sincerity in defending Mr Waititu, saying, his shock move was an affront to President Kenyatta and his war on corruption. Others said he resigns alongside the embattled governor.
This is the second time in three months the DP is facing criticism for appearing to defend graft suspects. Earlier this year, he was roundly censured for claiming that only Sh7 billion was lost in the Kimwarer and Arror dams scandal despite detectives saying more than Sh20 billion was suspected to have been pilfered.
On Sunday, while addressing the congregation at All Saints Komothai Catholic Church in Githunguri, Kiambu County, Mr Ruto said those questioning Mr Waititu over his curious budget lines should stop asking the governor “bogus questions”.
The governor was tasked by the Senate Public Accounts and Investments Committee last week to explain why his administration indicated it had spent Sh2.5 billion on matters beyond its purview, including on retired presidents’ pension and the South Sudan peace process. He drew a blank, explaining that county accountants might have used a budgeting template from the national government but forgotten to delete some lines.
A chorus of condemnation against the governor grew over the weekend, and Mr Ruto rushed to his defence, saying, Mr Waititu was being “crucified” for nothing, and that the audit questions should be directed to the national government.
“In the Kiambu budget, there are no issues of retired presidents, and nothing about South Sudan or State House. Baba Yao (Mr Waititu’s political nickname) should only be asked Kiambu issues,” Mr Ruto said.
He asked Mr Waititu, who was present, not to be worried because “they” will deal with the matter.
Some of the leaders who accompanied the DP were MPs Lydia Kago, Kimani Ichung’wa, Ng’ang’a King’ara, Alice Wahome, Githua Wamachukuru, Patrick Wainaina, and James Gakuya.
Mr Waititu had earlier blamed members of the anti-Ruto political formation, popularly known as Kieleweke, for his woes, saying, “they are plotting against me in all ways because I am a key Tanga Tanga member”, referring to the other loose political coalition that supports the Deputy President.
But both Mr Ruto and Mr Waititu faced an immediate backlash, with a section of MPs specifically targeting the DP, whom they accused of using the alleged stolen funds to finance his Tanga Tanga crusades.
They said the DP was once again siding publicly with the corrupt, “just like in the case of the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal”.
The leaders, who spoke at New Life Church at Nderi in Kiambu, included Mr Waititu’s deputy James Nyoro and MPs Maina Kamanda, Ngunjiri Wambugu, Joshua Kutuny, Gathoni Wamuchomba, Tom Kajwang, and Ruth Wangare.
“How can a national leader side publicly with a suspect instead of calling for an investigation into the issue?” Posed Ms Wamuchomba.
Mr Kamanda said proceeds of corruption were being used as bait to keep “greedy” MPs from Mt Kenya glued to Mr Ruto’s Tanga Tanga rallies and to disrespect President Kenyatta.
“One person is holding Kenya hostage because of his quest for power in 2022. Those following him really hope he becomes the next President, but what if he doesn’t win, yet you will have fallen out with our kingpin Kenyatta because of your greed? You shall suffer,” Mr Kamanda said.
They claimed Mr Ruto’s move to back Mr Waititu was open disrespect to the Head of State, who has been steadfast in the war on corruption.
Mr Nyoro said Kiambu MCAs had raised questions about anomalies in the budget, but they were ignored.
“Even before the issue went to the Senate, the MCAs had gone to court to stop the budget. As at now, we have no supplementary budget. The governor should explain whether Kiambu people have become (South) Sudanese,” Mr Nyoro said, adding, the 45-day period given by the Senate to the governor to clear the audit queries was unnecessary as it would only give him a grace period to clean the system.
“We want him to step down so that scrutiny is done,” the Deputy Governor said. “We can't wait that long.”
Mr Kutuny said Mr Waititu was a “bird of the same feather” with Mr Ruto and called for his arrest.
The leaders pointed to a looming fallout in Mt Kenya against President Kenyatta, which they blamed on “greedy” individuals.
Ms Wamuchomba claimed some Jubilee MPs had planned to heckle the President during the State of Nation address on April 4.
However, the plot was scuttled by Opposition MPs, who have sided with President Kenyatta since his ‘handshake’ with the Orange party leader Raila Odinga last year, she said.