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Sonko-Baba Yao show raises curtain for devolution comedy

Sunday May 5 2019

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko addresses workers during Labour Day celebrations held at Uhuru Park on May 1, 2019. The governor has certainly no desire of operating with a deputy. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GITAU WARIGI
By GITAU WARIGI
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“That is a non-issue.” So declared Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko as he brushed off the Senate committee on devolution that had summoned him on April 24 to explain why he runs the city without a deputy.

The committee had a hard time trying to get a grip on the whole absurdity of Sonko-esque city governance.

Apart from the non-existent deputy, there is no speaker of the county assembly. Half of the required county executive committee (CEC) positions are vacant.

The CEC members get reshuffled at a whim. Nairobi has the highest CEC turnover of any county in Kenya. Today you are hired, tomorrow you are sacked. There is no method to the madness.

Some appointees have flatly declined the appointments, with good reason. They are on record. Who in their right mind would want to work for Sonko? Like, really?

DEPUTY GOVERNOR

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Nairobi is about the only capital city in the world that is run by a political clown. We residents get by, somehow, through sheer providence.

Nonetheless, Sonko is quite a street-smart fellow, in his typical bullying manner. At the Senate hearing, he was irritable, angry, combative.

He kept wagging his index finger at the senators. He was particularly nasty toward his colleague, Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who he felt was behind the Senate summons. Reason? He is convinced Sakaja is plotting to run for governor in 2022.

Pressed by the senators on why he hadn’t appointed a deputy governor contrary to a Supreme Court advisory of last year, Sonko chose to muddy the waters with crude legalese.

He said he had complied by making the (bizarre, yes) appointment of Miguna Miguna, before the selection was quickly shot down by the county assembly.

ADVISORY

Sonko went on to argue that the Supreme Court advisory did not give guidance on what to do next when a nominee was rejected.

Nor, he claimed, did it give a time frame on when to name another appointee. The advisory was just that – not binding, he said.

Essentially he was telling the senators: “Shove it. I am not going to appoint a deputy. End of story.”

Previously, Sonko has floated names of prospective appointees who he plainly has no intention of hiring, or who he is certain would turn down his appointment.

Odd names, one of who was a young TV celebrity queen who must have been startled when she heard her name in circulation for an unfamiliar political job.

The governor has certainly no desire of operating with a deputy. I am sure the senators know that too. Sonko has low self-esteem.

IGATHE

He is insecure as a person. He fears to be outshone by anybody who gets too close to him. Bring a sharp guy as deputy governor, and Sonko will be exposed as the fraud he is. That’s his worry.

For me, one of the most intriguing happenings in city politics during the Sonko era was the abrupt resignation of Polycarp Igathe as deputy governor.

He has never uttered a word since as to why he dumped the job. We can only knowingly guess the reason.

Despite everything he obviously came to know about Sonko, I respect Igathe for keeping his silence like a true gentleman.

* * *

Sonko’s shenanigans were nothing compared to the national consternation his friend Governor Ferdinand (Clifford?) Waititu of Kiambu stirred when he appeared before the Senate public accounts committee last Thursday to answer some very explosive questions on the 2017/18 Kiambu county audit report.

My immediate impression was that Baba Yao does not go through his county’s account statements.

Not even the daftest administrator would have missed such ridiculous budget lines as were contained in the report.

Sh973 million for “coordination” of State House functions? Sh180 million for administration of statutory benefits for retired Presidents? Sh591 million in “advisory services” for state corporations? Sh58 million for Kenya-South Sudan “peace advisory services”? Sh804 million for free primary education?

Heck, aren’t these core central government functions? When was Waititu’s county sub-contracted to fund them?

Some things still weren't adding up. Where was the controller of budget and auditor-general in all this? Didn't the finance CEC notice anything amiss?

AUDIT REPORT

Ok, assume Baba Yao had clearly not bothered to counter-check the audit report ahead of the Senate summons. Some things still weren’t adding up.

Didn’t his finance CEC notice anything amiss? Not even the county assembly? I noted the governor was genuinely surprised when the senators flagged the strange budget anomalies.

He was categorical he had no idea how those budget annexes found their way into the audit report. Was he setup, perhaps? If so, by whom?

Or was it, as he explained, just a mistake of a “template” mix-up with Treasury financial statements?

No doubt, the mystery will unravel itself sooner or later. Woe unto ‘Kiambustan’ if it turns out there was a convoluted scam hidden underneath.

The senators want to be sure this is not a smoking gun. They agreed that a special audit of the county’s accounts be done urgently.

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