Senate: Shame as Waiguru is cleared of glaring graft charges

by David Karani

The Senate lost its glamour on Friday when it cleared Kirinyagah Governor Anne Mumbi Waiguru despite overwhelming evidence that she was the queen of graft in the county.

However, the cleansing of the governor did not come as a surprise given the hobnobbing exhibited by the ODM senators in the House.

While the Senate committee investigating her foun d three of her allies in the county government guilty of procurement malpractices bordering on corruption, they let the governor who left a similar record at the National Youth Service (NYS), to escape with a slap on the hand.

However, unbowed by the shameless Senate clearance, Kirinyaga ward reps led by Majority Leader Kamau Murango and the mover of the impeachment motion Kinyua Wangui (Mutira ward), said they will kick her out again.

“We are going to impeach the governor once again whether the Senate likes it or not. The Senate has let us and the people of Kirinyaga down,” Mr Wangui said.

The ward reps swore not to work with Ms Waiguru, whom they accused of being uncooperative and undermining them.

“We are going to impeach Ms Waiguru as many times until she is removed from office,” said Budget Committee chairman David Mathenge.

Ndia MP George Kariuki said he was disappointed at the Senate’s verdict and wondered how the governor will be able to work with the ward reps.

Governor Waiguru took cover behind the ODM leader Raila Odinga who she met secretly after the MCAs impeached her blaming her woes on her support for the Building Bridges Initiative and termed the accusations against her political. She also thanked the Senate, her supporters and her husband for their support.

“I call upon the county assembly to own up to their failures and play their part in ensuring that we move Kirinyaga forward. Rather than prioritising funds to projects such as building of MCAs offices, they should prioritise allocation to Covid-19 management and healthcare projects as proposed by the executive,” she said in a statement.

To impeach the governor again, ward reps must table new evidence and also collect signatures from a majority of the members of the county assembly.

The 11-member Senate committee that investigated the particulars of her impeachment returned the verdict in her favour which was chaired by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala.

The committee has directed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate some of the allegations on tendering and report back within 60 days.

In its report, the committee also recommended that all members of the county tendering committee step aside pending the completion of the investigations by the EACC, and those found culpable must take personal responsibility for their actions.

Among those to be affected are  director of administration Pauline Kamau, who was adversely mentioned as the face of the governor in all the dirty deals.

Others are Mr Gichira Wayne, the governor’s ICT adviser, and Director of Procurement Joseph Carilus Otieno, who was one of Ms Waiguru’s witnesses.

“Where allegations are made of a criminal nature, it may be the case that while the committee has neither the time nor the resources to make a conclusive finding, the matter is nevertheless serious in nature and may require the relevant organs of government to pursue,” the report reads in part.

Of the 12 tenders listed in its motion, the assembly only prosecuted four. From the four, the committee concluded that there was clear mismanagement of the process as tenders were awarded to companies whose bids were not responsive. The committee cited the case of the tender for the design, development, installation and commissioning of an integrated hospital management information system in the county as an example.

Another weakness noted was the awarding of tenders to companies that have affiliations with persons holding positions of responsibility in the executive. 

The issue of reinstating staff and keeping them waiting inordinately long without pay, as it has been with 77 health workers, was also of concern.

The committee found Ms Waiguru guilty of conferring on herself a personal benefit, but she escaped the wrath of the law when the committee ruled that it was not an impeachable offence.

The assembly had accused the governor of receiving Sh10.6 million in imprest though she did not travel, citing her planned trip to the United States.

While the committee established that Ms Waiguru surrendered the imprest for the trips, it blamed the Finance executive for delays in reimbursement.

“From the evidence adduced, the committee established administrative malaise in the management of imprests in Kirinyaga County,” the committee noted.

However, it questioned why the assembly listed 12 imprests in its motion and only prosecuted two.

“The governor adduced evidence of the travel, and where travel was not undertaken, the imprest was surrendered though out of time,” the report states.

The committee said that accounting officers must adhere to the 2012 Public Finance Management Act, which requires imprests to be surrendered within seven days and in the event of a delay, the refund should be made with interest.

The committee also took issue with her failure to appear before the assembly to present the annual State of the County address.

“The condescending attitude of the governor towards the county assembly is uncalled for and does not inspire confidence and trust in the county executive leadership,” the report states.

It adds: “The governor appears to require to be reminded of the high calling of her office and the responsibilities of leadership as set out under Article 73 in the Leadership and Integrity Chapter of the Constitution”.

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