Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru on Thursday blamed a “mysterious puppeteer” for her problems over the National Youth Service scandal.
She told Public Accounts Committee (PAC) members to find out for themselves who she was referring to, but pointedly named an aide to Deputy President William Ruto – Farouk Kibet – as one of the people who have been allegedly communicating with her persecutors.
She said the “puppeteer” was working with a network to fix her over the theft of public funds at the National Youth Service (NYS), which was a major component in her docket during her time in the Cabinet.
Ms Waiguru told the PAC in Nairobi that the “puppeteer” was behind attempts by Ben Gethi, Josephine Kabura and her former principal secretary Peter Mangiti, all of whom have been charged in court in connection with the scandal, to link her to it.
In their appearances before the team on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ms Kabura and Mr Mangiti, respectively, placed the scandal at the feet of Ms Waiguru.
Ms Kabura said she was her long-time friend and that she had introduced her to doing business with the government. Mr Mangiti said she created a parallel administration in the ministry and manipulated it to facilitate the theft.
Ms Waiguru described the effort to link her to the scandal as “an inconvenient truth”, saying she had never met or interacted with Ms Kabura.
She said it was not possible that Ms Kabura was covering up for her “as Kabura has said everything evil that one can humanly say about me”.
“Clearly Kabura is a puppet. She picked me for the simple reason that she must have been told by the puppeteer to pick on me with a view to protect[ing] the puppeteer,” she said.
“The network is intricate; the manner in which every witness who has come before this committee has been at pains to try and link me to their actions is telling.
"They have not given any concrete evidence in the form of a signed letter, phone records or a text message. They are clearly working under very powerful instructors or puppeteers and I hope that this committee finds out who these are,” she said.
“The problem with this thing of NYS is that there have been so many stories, so many lies, so many rumours, too much drama, that it is difficult to see the truth,” she added.
She also denied allegations that she had companies doing business with the NYS.
While she admitted asking the Treasury and subsequently Parliament, for a supplementary budget of Sh3.5 billion that was later the target of theft at NYS, she said this was necessary because of the expansion of the NYS to 20,000 servicemen and the cohorts to 80,000.
“I did not personally request [the money]. I made the request and proceeded to defend it in Parliament as part of my mandate as Cabinet secretary,” she said.
She, however, had a hard time explaining how the request was originated by a letter from Mr Mangiti, but which referred to her own instructions. This contradicted her earlier assertion that she gave all instructions in writing and never verbally.
She eventually found a single sheet of paper in her documents, but it was declared inadmissible as evidence.
She also blamed the network for the loss of Sh791 million using the simple trick of adding zeroes to documents and increasing the amount tenfold, from Sh79.1 million to Sh791 million.
Ms Waiguru, who has declared interest in the Kirinyaga governorship, said this could not happen “unless you are all colluding” since the various officers who look at the payments on paper and in the system would recognise the oddity.
“The problem is not the Ifmis system. The problem is the people. The system is as good as the people who use it,” she said.
To prove the existence of a network, she presented a document that she said was from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, showing how individuals in the ministry and the NYS communicated with eventual suspects and persons of interest in the scandal.
Among these were calls between Mr Gethi and Mr Kibet, thought to be the man who works as an assistant to Deputy President Ruto.
Mr Kibet was shown to have spoken on the phone with Mr Gethi 262 times. He was also reported to have received Sh1 million from Mr Gethi.
There were also records of calls between Mr Gethi and Mr Mangiti, the PS, Mr Harakhe and Mr Gethi, and Mr Gethi and Samuel Wachenje, the former finance director at the NYS.
Asked about its source, she said: “You can find documents if you want them. Nowadays there is hardly any document you can’t find. I got it from a friend. It is not a formal document. It is not official.”
Ms Waiguru arrived at Parliament for her much-anticipated appearance at about 10am accompanied by her secretary, Pauline Kamau, and a bodyguard, a delegation far much smaller than the ones she had brought along during previous appearances before the committee.
Clad in a blue-and-white dress with shades of black and a pair of formal black leather shoes, she also brought a large black leather briefcase of documents borne by her secretary.
She began her testimony by asking for assurances that the committee was not pursuing her and was only interested in the truth and didn’t have any ulterior motives.
Ms Waiguru said that from watching live broadcasts of the committee’s proceedings, she had noticed that some members of the panel asked witnesses leading questions.
She cited questions put to Mr Gethi and Ms Kabura when they met the committee.
“I seek your assurance before we proceed that this committee is guided by none other than its mandate to seek the truth under the law,” she said.
Members of the team saw this as an attempt to intimidate them, but PAC chairman Nicholas Gumbo gave her the necessary assurances.
She was in a bullish mood, brushing aside a request to explain how the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) works and telling MPs to ask the Treasury Cabinet secretary about it, flatly refusing an offer to have a cup of tea, smiling and when it came to answering the questions, choosing to rearrange the responses to ease the flow of her delivery.
At the meeting there were also MPs, referred to as “friends of the committee", some of them interested parties and others her supporters and friends.
Among these were: Stephen Kariuki (Mathare, ODM), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills, Jubilee), Lati Lelelit (Samburu West, Jubilee), Abdikadir Ore (Wajir West, ODM), Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town, ODM), Jared Kopiyo (Awendo, Ford-Kenya), Rachel Shebesh (Nairobi woman rep, Jubilee), Stephen Mule (Matungulu, Wiper), Maison Leshoomo (Samburu woman rep, Jubilee), Fred Outa (Nyando, ODM) and Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East, Jubilee).
Unlike previous appearances, when the Jubilee MPs openly interrupted proceedings, they were mostly quiet, with Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu at one point saying the MPs behind him were getting agitated when Ms Waiguru was questioned.
Ms Waiguru sought to lay the blame for the loss of Sh791 million via payments for materials to build a 3.5-kilometre road through Kibera at the feet of former NYS director-general Nelson Githinji.
She said all the payments for the Sh791 million were made with the approval of Dr Githinji, who continued to access Ifmis up to May 20 last year though his Authority to Incur Expenditure had been withdrawn in February.
Ms Waiguru had made a table of these records and backed it up with the query raised by the Office of the Auditor-General regarding Dr Githinji’s continued access to Ifmis.
That theory, however, ran into trouble after Dr Simiyu pointed out that Dr Githinji had stated that his access after revocation of the authority was “see-only” and that he could not approve transactions.
The tabulation she had made was subsequently declared inadmissible as it did not show who had approved the payments to the firms.
“We can understand what the intimidation was all about … the documentation was deliberately to mislead us … she is … covering up for Harakhe,” said Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba, ODM).
Ms Waiguru told the committee that she had noticed that costs for the 3.5-kilometre road in Kibera were unusually high and asked Mr Mangiti to have the NYS explain it.