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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 7 December 2014

WILL UHURU SHOW RUTO BUDDY THE EXIT DOOR?

Relations between Jubilee coalition partners could be headed to the rocks after it emerged that cabinet secretary for Energy Davis Chirchir was allegedly involved in corrupt deals during his tenure at Interim Independent Electoral Commission. This comes hot on heels after the edging out of Inspector General David Kimaiyo and the firing of Interior cabinet secretary Joseph Lenku.
Chirchir’s fate lies with Uhuru Kenyatta who is said to be facing rebellion from URP side. After being mentioned in a London Court as having received kickbacks, Chirchir was expected to have stepped aside as Chapter Six of the constitution integrity clearly stipulates.
It is worth to note that during the public vetting, Chirchir was questioned over his work at the defunct IIEC and the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation. MPs questioned him over the handling of the Pension Fund for 33, 000 employees of the corporation before it was restructured in the 1990s and most of the workers retrenched. Chirchir told the panel he had nothing to do with the payments because he was the general manager in charge of information technology and only facilitated the setting up of the fund.
Those opposed to Chirchir’s nomination argued he did not give a satisfactory explanation over the reservations raised against him. A section of MPs also questioned his role in politics and particularly the last general election. Chirchir represented Jubilee during petition at the Supreme Court when Cord coalition appealed Uhuru’s win. He had in 2007 elections worked with Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya.
Already, the ODM legislators led by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi are said to have launched the process of collecting signatures in support of a motion seeking to compel Uhuru to relieve him from his ministerial duties. One question is how Chirchir will handle big investments under his docket yet he is accused of corruption in almost all offices he has held.
Wandayi has won the support of Taita Taveta women representative Joyce Lay, Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and nominated MP Isaac Mwaura.
According to parliamentary standing orders, to file a motion for the removal of a cabinet secretary, an MP has to secure the signatures of 88 members constituting one quarter of the 349-member assembly.
“A member of the National Assembly, supported by at least one quarter of all the members of the National Assembly, may propose a motion requiring the president to dismiss a cabinet secretary where there are serious reasons for believing that the cabinet secretary has committed a crime under national and international law,” the constitution states.
The bone of contention is an allegation that he has been named as the recipient of a bribe in a case filed in a London court against a firm that supplied the defunct IIEC with ballot papers when the minister was a commissioner.
It is alleged that he pocketed millions of shillings in bribes to award lucrative ballot paper printing contracts to British company Smith & Ouzman while working at the IIEC. Sources now say the MPs mainly allied to Cord have already filed a motion in the National Assembly seeking to compel Uhuru to relieve Chirchir of his duties.
Top managers at the British security printing firm have been charged at the Southwark Crown Court number 11 in UK for allegedly paying millions of shillings in bribes to electoral commission officials in return for lucrative contracts. Investigations done by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office allege that the officials inflated contract prices in order to pocket hefty kickbacks from the British firm totaling Sh50 million.
According to the prosecutors in the UK court, the cost of printing contracts were inflated by up to 38pc mainly to cater for the bribes to senior election officials. Sources say the prosecutors allege that the senior election officials received their kickbacks disguised as “chicken” through Smith & Ouzman’s local agent, Trevy James Oyombra.
Chirchir together with some IIEC officials pocketed millions of shillings in bribes to award lucrative printing contracts to a British company over a two-year period. The worry for Chirchir is that the UK prosecutor has filed in court loads of written evidence implicating him and other officials.
But this is not the first time Chirchir is finding himself in a tight corner with threats of MPs threatening censure motion. There have been claims that Chirchir has been sidestepping parastatal heads under his docket while at the same time he has allegedly reduced his principal secretary, Joseph Njoroge, to a spectator in the running of the affairs of the ministry.
Ever since his appointment, the CEOs of parastatals under his ministry have been secretly complaining that he has been undermining them and sometimes preferring to ignore them as he gives verbal instructions to their juniors.
There have also been claims that he has literally taken over the running of the parastatals and in some cases, attempting to influence the award of tenders. Sources say Chirchir has been using his closeness with deputy president William Ruto to intimidate officers from the ministry and parastatals to directly influence their decisions related to tenders. Some CEOs under his docket have been heard wondering why they do not have offices at Nyayo House, 22nd floor where he is based since they spend a lot of time there.
At the Kenya Pipeline Corporation, he was engaged in sideshows with the MD Charles Tanui over award of lucrative tenders worth billions of shillings. Sources claimed that Chirchir has been frustrating Tanui’s efforts to professionally run the corporation to the extent that he has been attempting to influence tender awards to go his way.
Already, Kenya Pipeline is facing a court battle over the controversial Sh40 billion tender for the construction of a new 450km pipeline from Mombasa to Nairobi.
Investigations reveal that the tender has been marred by allegations of irregularities after Kenya Pipeline reportedly removed a clause midstream that requires companies to prove that they can obtain 70pc financing before being shortlisted.
The blame is now being shifted on Chirchir, whom sources claim interfered with the tender documents and removed the said clause. Sources divulged that Chirchir allegedly removed the clause singlehandedly during the second round after KPC short-listed 13 companies for the technical evaluation stage in tandem with the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005.
The interference by Chirchir is the reason behind Richmond Productions Limited going to court to stop KPC from going ahead with the tender process.
At the National Oil Corporation, sections of board members were opposed to Chirchir’s move to unprocedurally extend the term of CEO Sumayya Hassan-Athmani. We have information that Chirchir and the board chairman Peter Munge sidelined the rest of the board and went ahead to renew her term.
Board members opposed to her term’s renewal claim that Chirchir and Munge did not follow the procedure required as they dismissed calls by board members to conduct a formal appraisal to rate her performance before it could be considered for renewal. Nock sources told us that Chirchir personally handed her a letter extending her contract rather than the CEO getting her letter either through the board or the principal secretary. This is a clear proof that he has vested interests, it is pointed out.
One of the board members was quoted saying: “I was really surprised to read in the media that our cabinet secretary has extended our CEO’s contract for another three years reportedly on the recommendation of the board. With utmost respect and humility, and as I have always expressed my fears, the governance of this aspect has never been handled well”.
The board member further demanded: “Under the circumstances, I would recommend the letter to the CEO, if any was ever sent, be recalled and an advertisement for the position be made and in which case our CEO will be free to apply”.
Sources say the Auditor General is expected to move into Nock to undertake the special financial and governance audit requested by Consumers Federation of Kenya to unearth financial mismanagement claims.
It is even claimed that there are times Chirchir makes decisions touching on Kenya Pipeline alone, writes a letter based on the decision and sends it to the CEO to print on KPC letterhead and sign.
At the Kenya Power, the story is different. The managing director Ben Chumo has completely refused to be manipulated by Chirchir despite several attempts to have him dance to his tune as other CEOs have done.
Chumo is on record saying that he was competitively recruited and it is his track record that impressed the Kenya Power Board to give him the job. This has not gone down well with Chirchir whose attempts to intimidate him have failed. 
Chumo took over in an acting capacity from former managing director Njoroge who was appointed as the principal secretary in the ministry of Energy, before being confirmed in the same position.
Same allegations are at Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited.
The realisation of Vision 2030 depends on the energy sector, With interference from the cabinet secretary, who is suspected to have political interest in 2017 elections, Kenya might not be able to meet this deadline.
Inside sources within the ministry have sent requests to the relevant authorities to investigate all allegations and save the country from get-rich-quickly officials who are targeting tenders worth billions in the industry.
Sources claim Chirchir’s name features in several scams at the parastatal where hefty kickbacks in tenders awarded. It is said that he is pushing for a certain company to be involved in construction of the pipeline from Lamu to South Sudan and Uganda. He is also mentioned in the plan to expand the Nairobi-Mombasa pipeline by Kenya Pipeline which has already done advertisement on the project.
Recently, he cancelled a licence of Vanoil Kenya Limited, a Canadian oil prospecting company which has since closed shop in what industry players were left debating with talk of a deal gone sour. Now that Kenya has found the black gold, it has opened avenue for intense tussling in oil industry investments which run to trillions of shillings.
Come to power transmissions, of late there has been complaints that people on whose land power cables pass are not paid what appears in the books. This has put Ketraco at odds with land owners. What is taking everyone aback is the silence from Chirchir. Ketraco boss is Joel Kiilu who has also allegedly been cutting deals at Ketraco and is accused of employing his wife at the Energy Regulatory Authority. Kiilu, it has been claimed, is a Cord financier a suspicion he tried to water down by sending a donation to a Ruto harambee in Yatta to appease Ruto who one time reportedly told him in public “hata kama wewe ni Cord tutafanya kazi tu”.
Chirchir, a close confidant of Ruto is also accused of engaging in politics contrary to the oath of office. Locals say that he is using his newfound wealth sponsoring members of county assembly from his region in readiness to 2017 elections. Chirchir is suspected to be interested in running for governorship position 2017.
Before his appointment to the cabinet was approved, he was again at pains when he appeared before a parliamentary committee on appointments as he laboured to explain claims that when he was involved in a tender row while serving as a commissioner with the IEBC. He had been asked to substantiate if during his tenure he was doing business with IEBC. He was also mentioned in a scandal involving the biometric voters kitty with a Canadian company, Code Inc. 
Chirchir was also taken to task over the alleged highhandedness in the sacking of an employee while working as a director at Bon Voyage and the creation of the pensions fund for employees of the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications. Later, he joined Kalonzo’s then ODM-K in the runup to 2007 elections in what was later to emerge he was a spy for Ruto.
Sources say some of the TNA politicians have been complaining that he does not have time for them. It is claimed that some of the appointments he made in parastatals under his ministry did not go down well with some TNA operatives. He is accused of arrogance and being full of air.