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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Matemu sleuths descend on Vihiga county

Vihiga county Assembly clerk Josphat Mutembei claims sleuths from Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission who were sent to investigate goingson in county are demanding millions of shillings to write favourable reports.
Mutembei has petitioned Matemu Mumo to come to his aid since his officers are out to mint money from him. He claims due to demand for money, he has been dodging EACC officers for sometime until recently. Mutermbei claims to have used a fortune and  says enough is enough.
Following the expose by Weekly Citizen on graft in Vihiga county, EACC has swiftly swung into action to investigate corruption at the county office among executives and at the assembly. A source at EACC headquarters confided that officers on the ground  finally nabbed runaway Mutembei after days in hiding. Mutembei is allegedly known as the fulcrum of corruption involving MCAs and underhand procurement of services.
As the accounting officer, it is claimed, a recalcitrant Mutembei who has grown excessively rich has a dirty history from his previous employment in various defunct local authorities, a history he imported into the assembly procurement system.
Attempts by the MCAs to kick out the clerk have faltered as he has allegedly been able to bribe them with allowances for fictitious trips and meetings. The last attempt was when the county assembly public service board advertised for the position last year and while conducting interviews sacked Chief Whip Chogo Abdallah led rowdy MCAs in disrupting the session and forced Mutembei’s confirmation.
Another attempt to interdict him also failed. Despite remaining clerk, his position is tenuous as the process leading to his confirmation is said to have been incomplete and against the law. For this reason, Mutembei has always known his days are numbered hence embarking on amassing wealth in the shortest time possible before he is shown the door. It is also claimed that he is in an affair with a nominated MCA. 
EACC will be looking at the changed lifestyles of MCAs hardly two years in office as part of ascertaining unethical conduct under the ethics and leadership code, especially dethroned assembly leaders. Bribery had turned some of the sacked leaders into incoherent alcoholics cavorting publicly with twilight girls. Others used the money to build mansions, marry extra wives and buy SUVs. To illustrate just how they were living beyond their means on graft, an MCA revealed that “Chogo produced a minus-100 pay slip while pleading to be retained as chief whip at our meeting that sacked him. It’s no wonder he lived large on extorted earnings”. 
Sources at the county say EACC sleuths landed at the county  and fished out the clerk from hiding. After feigning sickness, Mutembei was forced to produce files related to trips, meetings by MCAs and procurement of tenders. The clerk had attempted to destroy evidence by plucking material from files which he carried away while trying to pass the buck on shady procurement to Akaranga’s feet. But unknown to Mutembei, a whistle blower had provided investigators with the file which the clerk had inadvertently forgotten at one of his hiding places when he left on a trot to evade the sleuths. The file is alleged to contain all the dirty dealings he has engineered. 
The EACC is zeroing on the clerk on contrived trips by MCAs where more that Sh150 million was lost and on tenders for construction works at the assembly. These include the filth in the award of a tender for construction of the assembly chambers that has twice collapsed and its completion is way delayed, and other unapproved renovations at the assembly offices. Although the chambers tender was awarded by Akaranga, Mutembei and the county secretary facilitated kickbacks to MCAs from the contractor,  leading to shoddy works and delays.  The contractor, an ODM coordinator for Vihiga county, claims to be an engineer and has hogged most tenders from Akaranga, keeps reassuring of the buildings safety despite the cracks on the incomplete building.
The county team is in the sight of EACC on issues of ethics and procurement for project tenders that do not adhere to the public procurement Act and leadership and integrity Act. Palavers committed by county are a source of kick-backs that have made the county a comedian’s paradise. They have instigated frivolous pet projects that have no value and are source of embarrassment to the residents. EACC would be looking for recovery of money paid to an “ambassador” of Vihiga to Germany appointed by Akaranga in 2013; farcical pilgrimages to Maragoli hills that gobble millions every year in the guise of promoting tourism; deceptive contracts with so-called foreign investors resulting in governor trips abroad who turn up to be backpack tourists and wastage of resources.
“Vihiga is a study in how to wrap yourself in lies, promote the myth of development while doing nothing meaningful lining your pockets and gaining political mileage,” said a distraught professor who lectures at Maseno University. She said the misery of Vihiga people is that they do not know they are being cheated in daylight robbery.
“Look at the diversion of money into buying tissue culture bananas that fail to sprout and without research on markets. Executive feasting meetings at hotels; the con on land bank while actually it’s a personal acquisition of land, Sh20 million to build houses for widows which is against public policy on housing while he builds a Sh100 mansion,” she laments.
Still, the investigators carted off with documents on road contracts that is a deal by the county for MCAs’ benefit.
EACC officers want to know under what law MCAs were allowed to procure and manage roads construction. It is alleged that this was done to buy the loyalty of MCAs. Indeed, an assembly that began by diligently oversighting the governor suddenly mellowed into praise singing political support.
Assembly work has been abandoned as MCA convoys snake through dust behind the governor’s entourage. Former majority leader Ahuga Mwenesi is still sulking that he was removed for supporting the governor hoping for continued handouts. He is unapologetic on party leader Musalia Mudavadi’s silence over his sacking. However, Mudavadi supporters say the Amani leader is aware of the diminished grassroots clout of the discredited MCAs and is better off keeping the distance.
“Mudavadi paid a courtesy call on Akaranga as a matter of course last year but Ahuga and company took advantage to reap from Akaranga lying they had pressured him to do so. The truth is Mudavadi had cautioned them that supporting the governor in developing the county did not mean absconding their oversight role. Neither did he tell them to engage in corruption. In fact he told them the way to help the county was to observe integrity by correcting and supporting the governor. He cautioned them that they would be blamed for five wasted years because they approve budgets and oversight implementation. It seems his advice fell on deaf ears,” said a close ally.
Residents complain that Vihiga government has no flagship projects like other counties while the governor is busy building a political network of campaigners in the guise of helping the people. Markets that were transferred to the county are incomplete eyesore white elephants. In Ahuga’s own North Maragoli ward the multi-million Mudete market initiated by Mudavadi when he was minister for Local Government is a vandalized ruin.
“Ahuga as majority leader has never explained why he is unable to lobby allocation for its completion even as he lined pockets. He can shout all he wants but we wrote him off long ago,” said a resident who underlined the verdict awaiting his MCA.
“You must look at the Sh20 million and the illegal employment of so-called intelligence officers as buying support. How much money will be spent on an illegal entity of two spies in each ward at Sh1.2 million as if there is no NIS? When did intelligence gathering become the function of counties? This is just the same foolishness of buying support that made us a laughing stock with his ambassador appointment,” said a teacher adding that a group of civil society and professionals will begin collecting signatures to send the government home  like in Makueni. This is because the MCAs have failed in their oversight role and dream of handouts from the governor.
As this is happenings, local MPs Wilbur Otichillo, Chris Omulele, Yusuf Chanzu, Alfred Agoi and Charles Gemose have failed to act raising eyebrows. In Kiambu county for instance, Governor William Kabongo is at war with local MPs over misuse of funds. Chanzu is set to oppose Akaranga 2017.