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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 12 April 2015

REBELLION IN CABINET OVER SUSPENDED FIVE

Even before the soil has dried on the graves of the 147 students gunned down in cold blood by al-Shabab terrorists in a wave of spiraling insecurity, matters do not look too rosy for the Jubilee administration that has just marked two years in office amid several governance challenges.
The barbaric dawn attack on the Garissa Univeristy came in the backdrop of a storm in the cabinet that has seen several cabinet secretaries forced to step aside to pave way for investigations in the graft charges facing them. Weekly Citizen has learnt that what has happened is just like a lull before a storm and open rebellion is looming that could see the much-touted Uhuruto digital cabinet go up in flames!
Matters came to a head when orders were specifically given to the five cabinet secretaries suspected of corrupt deals to do the honourable thing and step aside after a confidential EACC report named them in graft related cases. The secretaries are furious that they have been badly mishandled before the public after they were named without even knowing what they were being accused of and without benefit of a chance to defend themselves. This is viewed as a professional blot on their careers as they have become the laughing stock in the court of public opinion even if they are cleared.
Those who have been appointed to act in their places are said to have been secretly complaining that it would have been better the CSs had been allowed a chance to state their side of the story before taking the matter to parliament. Some members of  the cabinet insist those implicated should have been summoned and briefed about the allegations before being asked to step aside.
The angry suspended cabinet secretaries now protest that already they appear to have already been tried by the public and found guilty of graft yet it remains unclear how EACC is going to proceed to clear them on the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.
The suspended CSs now claim that the allegations against them only amount to a political witch-hunt as they have allegedly targeted most hard working ministers who have been visible. Charity Ngilu, CS Lands who has been vocal in transforming her ministry which she had claimed was rotten with graft but had proceeded to digitise the land records now says it is the owners of the big toes she stepped on who are behind her problems. Ngilu had widely been perceived as the face of efficient service delivery and numerous occasions was hobnobbing with Uhuru Kenyatta giving out title deeds and it came as a shock when her name appeared on the infamous list of shame. Ngilu who has been holding the largest docket as Lands, Housing and Urban Development CS is being investigated for allegedly instructing valuers from her ministry to inflate the value of Waitiki Farm in Mombasa by Sh110 million to pocket a Sh65m kickback once the farm is sold.
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries CS Felix Koskei allegedly gave permits under the table to some importers to bring in sugar without going through open tendering, which is against procurement laws in Kenya and Comesa rules. It is this imported sugar that is seen to have forced prices down negatively impacting on Kenya’s largest sugar manufacturer Mumias Sugar Company.
The self-effacing Transport ministry CS Michael Kamau who is yet to match his predecessor now deceased John Michuki,  has allegedly been implicated in various road tender award scams. He, for example, allegedly inflated the Standard Gauge Railway consultancy fees involving billions of Kenya shillings which he salted away into his private account.
Energy ministry CS Davis Chirchir who was earlier cited in the London “chicken gate” while at IEBC is alleged to have been perpetrating corruption in the ministry’s tenders and procurement process. He is implicated in an attempt to influence award of a Kenya Pipeline Company tender worth Sh4.5 billion to Sinopec instead of Zakhem. EACC claims the tender was meant to corruptly yield Sh138million which was to be shared between him and controversial Nairobi senator Mike Sonko who claims to have stepped down. This however has raised eyebrows as his office is elective and the speaker has apparently not been briefed meaning Sonko continues to draw full salary.
Labour ministry CS Kazungu Kambi had asked his boss Uhuru to shoot him dead Chinese-style if he is found guilty of corruption as alleged! But in the EACC report Kambi has been linked to corrupt deals at NSSF where he strongly supported the NSSF Tassia II Project despite clear indications that the board of trustees did not approve the project’s revised cost estimate of Sh5b from Sh3b as required by procurement laws.
The bitterness in the cabinet was well manifested last week during a press briefing at Harambee House over the Garissa terror attack with many of the surviving ministers wearing cold hostile faces fully aware that the same knife that Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto used to cut their colleagues could one day be used against them.
There are those who now say even if cleared by EACC, they cannot accept back their jobs but are also plotting to embarrass the executive by tendering their resignation immediately after clearance.
As things stands, the cabinet’s morale is said to be at lowest ebb more so after Uhuru coldly told those named “to carry their own crosses”. They now wonder if the collective responsibility is ever applied in his cabinet, and why the president has abandoned them despite working under his direct supervision.
Going by the high threshold put in the constitution regarding the sacking of the CS, Uhuru who is already weighing his options for retaining the seat he narrowly won in 2013 has only one card left, to reshuffle the cabinet.
Sources now say that anxiety has gripped the cabinet, principal secretaries and parastatal heads as Uhuru is said to be set to re-assign duties. The imminent reshuffle and dismissals have put the CSs and PSs in a state of confusion because none of them knows when the axe of the president and his deputy will fall!
What is causing more worries is the Public Service Commission audit which looked at their performance for the past years and the scorecard for various officers is said to be below average. The fear now is that the CSs and the PSs are not sure on the nature of action the president may prefer against public officers who have not achieved their targets.
A stern-looking Uhuru has on several occasions warned nonperforming state officers that they would be held accountable for falling standards and challenged them to step aside if unable to deliver. Some ministries now feel the executive have data on nonperforming ministers and any time they will pay for it.
Uhuru handlers with the eyes firm on the 2017 election have moved fast to allay growing public perception  that the government had failed to deliver hence the list of shame as a way of spreading the blame.
But the bitter secretaries now wonder why their colleagues had to be forced to step aside without tangible evidence of any wrong doing to warrant them to step aside. Some are all regrets after their earlier attempts to resign from the cabinet were rejected by Uhuru and Ruto.
At one time, Industrialisation CS Adan Mohammed had contemplated resigning to rejoin the private sector but he was prevailed upon to stay put. Those who had opted to resign claimed that the government was full of corruption and that cleaning and ridding off their departments out of graft was going to be a tall order.
Their main worry and fear now is that whether they are sacked or they opt to resign, already their CVs have become tainted and no employer from the private sector will  hire them without reservations. Already even their juniors do not respect them as the stigma of graft hangs on their heads. The junior civil servants are now known to mock the CSs that they are just like any other civil servant and do not deserve any special treatment.
In fact they say the once powerful office of the CS has now been reduced to the same level as any other government office and they are no longer the powerful ministers Kenyans were used to seeing during the Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki regimes.
Initially, the ministers thought because they are not answerable to parliament but directly to the president and not even to the deputy, they could do what they wanted as long as it did not land in Uhuru’s ears. It is for this reason that within a short time, almost the entire cabinet has been named in one scandal or another. But even as they show solidarity with their implicated colleagues, talk is rife that there is a second list of shame in the offing and could be released by the EACC anytime. Some have been overheard complaining that some of them are forced to carry the cross of the previous regimes and ministers.
Some CSs have been secretly complaining that they are under pressure from certain politicians to give them tenders claiming that the funds generated from the tenders are for Uhuru and Ruto’s 2017 campaigns.
What is now likely to cripple government operations is that some corrupt civil servants could sabotage their ministers with a view of fixing them to step aside. Sources say already senior civil servants are lobbying to fill the positions held by the suspended ministers.
Already, word is out that parliament could soon start impeachment motion against Devolution cabinet secretary Ann Waiguru and her Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich. This is now being seen as part of the legislature to teach the CSs a lesson after learning that they are vulnerable and no longer enjoy the goodwill and protection they initially enjoyed from the president and his deputy before the end of age innocence of Jubilee administration.
A petition seeking their impeachment is already with the legal department of the National Assembly who will determine if it meets the threshold. It is said the two are accused of gross violation of the constitution, the public finance management Act and incompetence.
According to the petition, the two are accused of being behind a circular that gave the CSs more powers  and reduced the PSs to mere accounting officers and that no financial transaction within the ministry can take place without the CS’s approval while giving the CSs the general administration of the human resource department.
Sources now say that some of the suspended cabinet ministers are now threatening to spill the beans by implicating the president or his deputy once summoned by the EACC saying they are being sacrificed in what they term as a PR gimmick by Jubilee regime out to please the public. 
Ngilu last week sensationally claimed that it was Uhuru who had sanctioned two of the matters for which she was under investigation namely the Karen land saga and Mombasa plot.
Startled Uhuru inner circle are reading mischief and now see Ngilu as a spy spoiling for war by dragging in the president’s name rather than attempting to clear her name from alleged corrupt deals she was involved in.
Sources say before the list of shame was released, Ngilu was at loggerheads with a number of top Uhuru handlers over land matters. She claims there have been attempts to kick her out from the government yet she had an MoU with Jubilee which is now being dishonoured.
In January 2014, there was an attempt by Jubilee MPs to censure Ngilu a move that the first female  presidential candidate in 1997 saw as an attempt to silence her and secretly depict her as a failed cabinet secretary. It was this censor motion that Ngilu knew that as much as she had a pre-election deal with Uhuru and Ruto, she was just like any other cabinet secretary with no special treatment.
To make matters worse for Ngilu, it was TNA’s Kieni MP Kanini Kega who was the face behind the censure motion. The MP claimed Ngilu acted against the constitution on appointments in her ministry.
The suspicion on Ngilu’s perceived allegiance to Raila Odinga played out during the censure motion in which she was reported to have sought help from Cord MPs.
Sources say it was Cord MPs who ganged up against the censor motion that made the matter end at the committee stage.
On the Waitiki land, Ngilu argued the owner had demanded Sh9.3b for his land, translating to a cost of Sh10m per acre. But government valuers put the price at Sh2.64b and when Waitiki stood firm on his demands a meeting was called between the seller, the president, Ngilu, Rotich, head of civil service Joseph Kinyua among others whereby an offer of Sh1.1b was made.
According to Ngilu, the president himself told Waitiki to take Sh1.1b for the land and on the State House Road land, the CS said it was Uhuru who on January 22 ordered that the land be reverted to the government and be allocated to the Foreign Affairs ministry.
According to the EACC dossier, Ngilu is said to have ordered her junior officers to inflate the cost of Waitiki Farm so that she can get a hefty kickback. The report states: “Mrs Charity Ngilu the cabinet secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development in collusion with Mr Evason Waitiki owner of Plot No Mombasa/MN/1/397 Waitiki Farm in Likoni inflated the actual market price for the land by Sh110m.”
Kamau is another bitter man who is also said to be threatening to spill the beans over the Standard Railway Gauge tender. He has been accused of tender award manipulation and conflict of interest that involves a consultancy company that is associated with him, Apec Consulting.
The company is alleged to have inflated the SGR consultancy fees involving billions of shillings. He is also accused of interfering with the consultant’s design in the construction of the Kamukunywa-Kaptama-Kapsokwony-Kimilili roads without following proper procedures leading to massive embezzlement.
He is said to have information how Ruto’s office has attempted to influence a tender in favour of a company he has interest in. Sources say Kamau is privy to a letter allegedly written by Ruto recommending a construction company be given priority when jobs are advertised for delivering materials for the construction of SGR.
While the authenticity of the letter is in doubt, it is alleged that the company in question is trading as AA Yusuf and Sons. Ruto’s office however dismissed the letter as a forgery.
The secret rebellion has now forced the executive back to the drawing board and is contemplating doing a major reshuffle or even firing all the CSs and PSs named in the list of shame. However, the process of firing a CS or a PS is not as was in the previous governments of Moi and Kibaki.
Sacking the cabinet secretary might again prove to be a tall order for the executive for the MPs from different political divides could gang up to support one of their own based on political party affiliation, ethnic or religious background sparking a storm in cabinet.
The process of the removal of the CS according to article 152 of the constitution is not automatic. The president can recommend the sacking or the national assembly can also impeach a CS but the procedure has several hurdles.
In case of impeachment through parliament, the motion must be supported by at least one-third of the members of the national assembly who will in turn appoint a select committee comprising 11 of its members to investigate the matter; and the select committee shall, within 10 days, report to the assembly whether it finds the allegations against the cabinet secretary to be substantiated.
If the select committee reports that it finds the allegations unsubstantiated, no further proceedings shall be taken but if substantiated, the national assembly shall vote whether to approve the resolution requiring the cabinet secretary to be dismissed.
If a resolution requiring the president to dismiss a cabinet secretary is supported by a majority of the members of the national assembly, the speaker shall promptly deliver the resolution to the president; and the president shall dismiss the cabinet secretary.
There have been proposals that Uhuru should disband the entire cabinet and bring on board a new crop of CSs so as to rid the country of the corruption that is giving his government a dark image. This it is said would give him time to start a corruption-free government.
The same thing happened during the tenure of Kibaki when he disbanded the cabinet in November 2005 after he suffered a humiliating defeat in a referendum on the constitution which pundits said was a vote of no confidence in his shaky coalition.
While dismissing his cabinet, a bitter Kibaki said he wanted to reorganise and unite his cabinet. Kibaki suffered an embarrassing defeat when 57pc of voters rejected a draft constitution he had championed that allowed him to keep executive powers.