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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 22 February 2015

UHURU, RUTO DISCUSS CABINET SHUFFLE

The Jubilee presidency, out to stamp its authority, is working on final touches on its first major cabinet reshuffle and an overhaul of state corporation chief officers and chairmen.
Consequently, a major scramble for patronage is on with those from region’s perceived to be opposed to the Jubilee government said to stand good chances.
It is understood that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are being advised not to get carried away with the tyranny of numbers like it happened when they crafted their first cabinet in May-June 2013.
At the time, the emphasis was on technocrats and Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions. This time round, Luhyas and Luos are said to be in consideration for jobs in the looming changes.
One and a half years down the line, the myth and the art of technocracy has been exposed by lacklustre cabinet performance laced with outright arrogance and thievishness. The technocratic failure icons of the Jubilee cabinet comprise over a dozen, mostly with roots in Jubilee political strongholds of Rift Valley and Central.
 Education secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, who is widely considered to be an overeducated fellow, is seen as having botched Jubilee’s single biggest manifesto pledge - the much touted laptop for all Class One pupils project. It is likely that the opposition will use the lap top project as a campaign tool 2017 to try fix the government. At the ministry of Health, cabinet secretary James Macharia is sitting on a time bomb as documents and information is already being leaked out that shows that together with his allies christened Macharia-12, they have become overnight millionaires. Macharia is said to have transferred those perceived to be stumbling blocks in dirty deals in the ministry to have his way. On top of it, sexual favours are the talk of town at the Health ministry headquarters.
The saga of Joseph ole Lenku, who as Interior cabinet secretary made Kenya the world’s counter-terrorism laughing stock and destroyed the 2014 tourism season with losses of tens of thousands of jobs and opportunities, showed how reluctant the digital duo presidency was to move against its own cabinet.
The future of Energy cabinet secretary Davies Chirchir at the helm of ministry of Energy hangs in the balance following fresh revelations and confirmation that he played a central role in a bribery case that has landed two Britons in jail. He was a commissioner in the defunct IIEBC and a confidante of a Canadian firm associated with the controversial biometric voter’s kitty and one Mr Sinclair.
Well-placed sources now say that sooner than later, Uhuru could relieve Chirchir of his duties for being the first member of the cabinet directly implicated in a scandal where he used his positions to enrich himself.
It has emerged that the donor community has piled pressure on Uhuru to fire Chirchir and have given tough conditions that donor funding to new and ongoing projects will be stopped until Chirchir clears his name with Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission. The energy docket is one of the departments that rely heavily on donor funding.
Uhuru and the Jubilee administration must therefore choose between keeping Chirchir in office and having donors withhold donor funds. Sources say that immediately after the UK court sent suspects to jail, all major donors to the energy sector made their position known that as long as Chirchir is still in office, there will be no more funding.
It is a fact that if Uhuru does not take action, he will lose the moral authority to talk about corruption. Sources further divulged that Uhuru seems to have made up his mind and that it is just a matter of time before Chirchir is asked to step aside. Of late, Uhuru has been talking tough on corruption among his top government officials including cabinet secretaries. Time will tell if he is willing to match his vows to curb wastage of public funds, by inflicting a serious blow to corruption with action.
To show how Uhuru takes the chicken scam seriously, early in the year after it came into the public limelight, it is alleged that a worried Chirchir tried in vain to have a one on one with Uhuru. It is not known the nature of the meeting he had sought to have with Uhuru but sources say his attempts were futile. At one point, during his visit to the US and which coincided with Uhuru’s visit to Europe, he made frantic efforts to meet Uhuru. Although he was allowed up to the hotel where Uhuru and his entourage were booked, Uhuru is said to have declined to meet him for fear of being seen to be an ally in the chicken scam.
Sources say Uhuru had gotten intelligence reports that Chirchir had wished to meet him to discuss the chicken scam in private but Uhuru declined saying such matters are discussed at cabinet level and not in private.
Chirchir’s appointment to the powerful energy docket had initially met several hurdles. The parliamentary committee on vetting during a meeting at the Windsor Golf and Country Club was divided over his approval.
The truth of the matter is that Chirchir got approval thanks to the tyranny of numbers. The committee chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi questioned the competence of Chirchir to handle the energy docket. “There is a general feeling across the political divide that  Chirchir is not competent enough to handle the crucial docket. There is agreement that he should not be cleared,” said a source privy to the closed-door meeting at Windsor.
The Cord coalition members in the panel were uncomfortable with Chirchir accusing him of aiding Jubilee to win the March 4 2013 disputed general elections. Cord accused Chirchir of doing business with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and having held passwords to the commissions IT systems when he served as a commissioner to the defunct IIEBC.
But even before Uhuru cracks the whip, Chirchir and a number of current and former public officials implicated in the UK court proceedings on bribery of Kenyan officials to facilitate award of multi-million shilling tenders were last week quizzed by the anti-corruption sleuths.
Among those who appeared at Integrity Centre are IEBC chairman Isaak Hassan and Chirchir. Also to appear this week is former chief executive James Oswago.
Last week, Hassan distanced himself from the chicken scam saying the deals were executed long before the electoral commission was formed. Could this be the case of Hassan now fixing Chirchir?
Going by the new twist in the chicken saga and following revelations by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko last week that he is ready to handle the matter once the EACC completes the investigations, it is a matter of time before Chirchir finds himself in the dock. Once arrested and charged, he will be forced to step aside until the court ruling.
Those demanding that Chirchir must quit say the conduct of state officers in private and public is very central in determining whether they have the required integrity and suitability to hold office. They now say Chirchir must leave public office because questions of the integrity or suitability of state officers do not need to be ascertained through court cases proving the guilt or innocence of the concerned party.
Uhuru is also now under intense pressure to actualise his public statements with concrete and tangible steps in tackling corruption in his government, let him begin with sacking Chirchir and any other person linked with the chicken scandal.
Recently, Nicholas Charles Smith, 43, was jailed for three years by the Southwark Crown Court for bribing officials of the IIEBC and the Kenya National Examinations Council bosses so as to get printing contracts.
Smith’s father, Christopher John Smith, 71, was sentenced to an 18 month suspended term for his role in the scandal in which top IIEBC and KNEC officials pocketed Sh50 million as bribes to award tenders to Smith & Ouzman Ltd.
What at first began as mere speculations when Chirchir was in the bungled 2007 election has now come to pass. Focus now shifts to Uhuru to pave way for the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate and prosecute Chirchir and other Kenyans named in the indictment against the Britons.
The prosecution showed that the Kenyan taxpayer paid dearly for the illicit dealings between senior Smith & Ouzman officials and the senior managers and commissioners in the defunct IIEBC.
Apart from Chirchir, others named in the scam are IEBC chairman Hassan, former IEBC chief executive Oswago, former IIEBC commissioners Joseph Dena and lawyer Ken Nyaundi. Others are former IIEBC employees Kenneth Karani and Hamida Ali Kibwana, as well as Smith & Ouzman’s local agent, Trevy James Oyombra.
Allegations are that Chirchir was the main man who brokered the deal and who received the bribes from Smith & Ouzman. According to the court papers, the bribes were wired to the account of Oyombra, who would withdraw the money and give it to Chirchir who would in turn share it with his team. Chirchir frequently visited UK to supervise printing of ballot papers. Unconfirmed information stated that Oyombra and Chirchir were spotted holding secret meetings both at IIEBC offices and at exclusive clubs within and outside Nairobi. It was during such meetings that the two planned how tenders would be skewed in favour of Smith & Ouzman and the amount of bribes to be given out in return for the “favours”.
The prosecution further claimed that apart from the bribes, Smith & Ouzman would also foot travel and accommodation costs for Chirchir whenever he travelled to London. While in London, prosecution revealed that Smith & Ouzman also gave him huge amounts of money to shop for his family.
What is even causing more worries for Chirchir is the fact that the smooth-talking, former procurement officer at the disbanded Electoral Commission of Kenya has threatened to spill the beans should the big fish be spared.
The worry is that after the scandal was exposed, Oyombra has never had time for Chirchir. He allegedly changed contacts and has virtually disappeared from social media. His account on Twitter, Trevy James Oyombra, is gone, as is his profile on LinkedIn. Apart from Chirchir, he has severed links with some of his businesses. Those who know him say he is a shrewd wheeler dealer who knew how to manipulate his employer to make money.
As things stand now and following more pressure from Cord leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula, the Law Society of Kenya and the civil society, Chirchir could just be serving as a cabinet secretary on borrowed time and anytime either Uhuru could ask him to step aside or the EACCC could arrest him and lock him up.
However, calls to have Chirchir sacked are now threatening to tear apart the Jubilee coalition. We have information that Uhuru had made up his mind to send Chirchir home but Ruto is not keen on it. Sources say Chirchir who is allied to the URP wing of the coalition can only be sacked upon consultation and concurrence between Ruto and Uhuru.
The matter has also put Ruto in a catch-22. One, Ruto is well aware that his then ODM side lost the 2007 elections and the blame now lies squarely on Chirchir who was used to bungle the elections. Two, Ruto also claims that had Raila’s victory not been stolen in 2007, there would have been no post-election violence and so he would not be at The Hague. On that note, he blames his tribulations on Chirchir’s role in the bungled elections.
But on the other hand, Ruto also feels indebted to Chirchir. According to URP sources, Chirchir is one of the key financiers of URP and now a key member of the Ruto kitchen cabinet. It is for the role that he plays in URP affairs that Ruto is finding it hard to allow Uhuru sack him. Prior to his appointment to the cabinet, he served as URP’s director of elections.
Uhuru is also on the other hand finding it hard to continue retaining him in office after his accomplices were jailed for giving Kenyan officials bribes. The matter is now threatening to create bad blood between Ruto and Uhuru but Uhuru allies are pushing hard to see Chirchir sacked while Ruto allies from the URP side claim that he can only be sacked after a court process and if proven guilty.
Last week, Cord issued a statement which read: “The case in London by the Serious Fraud Office puts our prosecution and our Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to serious shame and credibility questions. That Kenyan election officials pocketed millions of shillings in bribes to award lucrative printing contracts to Smith & Ouzman over a two-year period, then those same people proceeded to manage our critical 2013 polls is an unacceptably strong statement on how low we sank and how much some of us insist we must remain in that hole. We therefore demand the immediate resignation of all the officers and former officers mentioned in this scandal, their immediate arrest and their immediate prosecution. The rule of accountability must begin at the top with the arrest and prosecution of Chirchir and Hassan”.
The UK prosecution proved beyond no reasonable doubt that in the deal, printing contracts, costs were inflated by up to 38pc mainly to cater for the kickbacks commonly referred to as ‘chicken’.
The kickbacks covered election materials for the 2010 constitution referendum, four parliamentary by-elections held in Shinyalu, Bomachoge, South Mugirango and Matuga as well as a host of civic polls.
Those who have interacted with Chirchir say he is a private man who prefers to cut deals secretly without even involving his close friends or allies. Even at the ministry, he is said to run the affairs of the ministry in a secretive manner. He once worked at ODM-Kenya now Wiper party but left in unexplained circumstances.
This is not the first time however, that Chirchir’s name is being mentioned in a negative manner. Immediately after his appointment, there was hue and cry that he was sidestepping parastatal heads under his docket. It has been further alleged that he has allegedly reduced his principal secretary Joseph Njoroge to a spectator in 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 sidestep them as he gives verbal instructions to their juniors.
Chirchir was born in 1960 and his academic and professional background shows that he previously served as general manager at Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation, Communication Commission of Kenya, Postal Corporation of Kenya and staff Pension Fund. He also coordinated the privatisation of Telkom Kenya and establishment of Safaricom. He holds a Masters of Business Administration in International Management from Royal Holloway School of Management, University of London and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Physics from the University of Nairobi.
Impeccable sources inside the presidency told Weekly Citizen that in their discussions, some of which have been held without even the closest aides present, Uhuru and his deputy have finally resolved to move with ruthlessness, much wider inclusivity than in 2013 and to throw at least three cabinet and principal secretaries into the anti-corruption courts.
As such, a  lot of people are angling to influence the shape of the Jubilee cabinet and state corporations at the ruling coalition’s halfway mark ahead of the titanic 2017 presidential poll clash in which UhuRuto will be prospecting for a second and final term for the president and the opposition will be seeking to lock them into just one term.
Raila made his most determined move yet to undermine the tyranny of numbers brigade at the funeral of slain Kabete MP George Muchai. He started by stepping up pressure on the government to arrest and charge state officers implicated in the Chickengate scam.
But  Ruto, who represented the president at the burial, sprang to the defence of those named in the scandal, saying similarly, professional investigations must be conducted in the matter before condemning those mentioned.
Ruto said it would be contradictory for leaders to call for immediate punishment of the IEBC officials and at the same time say the murder of Muchai be investigated first before those involved are brought to book.
Also in the crosshairs of UhuRuto’s first shuffle are Charity Ngilu, Najib Balala and Kazungu Kambi. Corruption allegations have dogged them throughout the life of the Jubilee regime so far. Balala has a case in court in which he has taken evasive action.
As they approach the halfway mark in their fist term, Uhuru and Ruto and their strategic teams also want the cabinet expanded from 18 members to the constitutionally sanctioned maximum of 22.
Insider sources told Weekly Citizen that the regions to benefit both in the changes will be Western, Kisii, Eastern, Coast and the rebellious South Rift Kipsigis region.