17 May 2018

Kenya: Opposition Tells Kenyatta to Sack CSs Rotich and Kariuki Over Sh9 Billion NYS Scam

Photo: Nation Media Group
Treasury secretary, Henry Rotich.

The Opposition has demanded the resignation of two Cabinet secretaries and the Controller of Budget over the Sh9 billion National Youth Service (NYS) scandal.

If Mr Henry Rotich, the Treasury CS and his Health counterpart Sicily Kariuki and budget boss Ms Agnes Odhiambo do not quit within 24 hours, then President Uhuru Kenyatta must demonstrate that he means business and sack them, said Nasa co-principal Musalia Mudavadi.

Ms Kariuki was the Public Service CS when the suspicious payments were made.

Mr Mudavadi, the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader and a former Finance minister, said the three must be held jointly responsible "for this act that can only be described as a robbery".

"President Kenyatta has been talking about cracking the whip and 'business unusual'. This is the time to walk the talk. All the officers around this issue must step down to allow full investigations into the matter," said Mr Mudavadi.

SCANDAL

The Sh9 billion scandal occurred, investigators believe, when corrupt officials created companies then assigned them contract numbers, made fake local purchase orders and created tracks of service deliveries in place of genuine, pre-qualified companies.

Already, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has interrogated Public Service Principal Secretary Lilian Mbogo-Omollo and NYS Director-General Richard Ndubai.

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti said Ms Omollo and Mr Ndubai would face a second round of inquiries. He insisted those found culpable would be arrested and charged while another official said heads would roll as early as this week.

President Kenyatta, following what is reported to have angered him, had on May 12 summoned Ms Omollo's boss, CS Margaret Kobia, to explain the scam.

CRACK THE WHIP

And as Mr Mudavadi called on the President to crack the whip on his officials, the Raila Odinga-led ODM officials John Mbadi (chairman) and secretary-general Edwin Sifuna called for a thorough audit and action on the scam that will potentially make a joke of the Sh791 million scandal at the same agency, and which led to the resignation of Ms Anne Waiguru as the Devolution ministry's CS in 2015.

"The President owes it to Kenyans to call upon his officers who were in office when this scandal happened to step aside," Mr Mbadi said. He, however, faulted investigative agencies for taking too long to conclude corruption cases thereby promoting the vice in the public sector.

"We need to see results from these investigations carried out by EACC (Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission) and DCI," Mr Mbadi said. "The issue of investigative agencies failing Kenyans in the past is well known and that is why it is my take that the Auditor-General should conduct an independent investigation and forward his report to Parliament for action," he added.

In Kakamega, Mr Sifuna said the party expects no stone to be left unturned. "Whoever is involved, we are told it touches on the high and mighty in this country, should be caught and brought to book," Mr Sifuna said.

ABUSE OF IFMIS

At the same time, Ford-Kenya deputy party leader Boni Khalwale said the only sure way to get ahead of the scandal is to present a censure motion in Parliament after the story was broken by the Nation.

"Now that we have information that conflict of interest was at play and that there was abuse of Ifmis, Parliament should use that to initiate a motion of censure so that Sicily Kariuki, Richard Ndubai, and Lilian Omollo do not only go home, but also the other individuals take responsibility," said Dr Khalwale.

Even as politicians piled the pressure on the government, detectives investigating the scandal are trying to piece information together to find out how companies were paid several times for the same service.

Documents seen by the Nation show NYS paid Firstling Supplies and Flagstone Merchants Sh1.7 billion between November and December last year. A detective close to the investigation said the transactions appeared to be double payments. In one case, a company presented a single voucher but four payments were made, each worth Sh46 million with slight variations in the actual figure.

In another case, the same amount was paid, but only one voucher could be found for scrutiny.

PAYMENTS NOT VALID

Most of the companies claimed the money as payment for supply of tyres, but detectives were yet to establish whether anything was supplied in the first place.

It is not the first time that Firstling and Flagstone Merchants dealings with government agencies have come under the spotlight. In 2012, Auditor-General Edward Ouko raised the red flag that the companies and two others - Interpon and Interscope Tech & Services - were paid Sh31 million by the Transport ministry for the supply of earthquake monitors to the meteorology department.

"The evidence that we obtained during the audit indicates that the payments were not valid as they were either supported by fabricated documentation or none at all," the report states. They were eventually forced to return the money which was irregularly placed in a suspense account. The audit recommended the assets of the firms and directors frozen.

Reported by David Mwere, Fred Mukinda, Patrick Lang'at, Samwel Owino and Benson Amadala

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