By JAMES M and RAMADHAN R for the Star
At least three sitting and one former governor are facing arrest over corruption-related charges as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission shifts focus to county chiefs suspected to have stolen from public coffers.
One of the governors is from Nyanza region and is known to be close to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the other one is from the Coast and the third is from Eastern region and has recently been in the news.
All the three have been accused of siphoning cash from their counties through proxies, abuse of office, failing to safeguard public resources, among others.
Yesterday, the Star also learnt that apart from the four, the EACC is also firming up cases against 12 other governors. In some cases investigations are almost complete.
The EACC has been working quietly to identify assets bought using cash stolen from the counties. They include houses, land and high-end cars.
“We are targeting more governors because we know counties are important. Just as we have been hard on state agencies within the national government, we will not allow plunder and pilfering at the counties,” Twalib Mbarak, the new EACC boss, told the Star yesterday.
The former governor, who has maintained a low profile since he lost election, is accused of failing to follow government procedures and irregularly awarding a multi-million contract to a company associated with his son’s business.
His former chief of staff is also facing charges of grabbing prime public land and illegally transferring county property to his company.
Mbarak, declined to reveal the identities of the three governors facing arrest and possible prosecution, only saying that investigations are underway.
“We have heightened operations and our undercover officers will be striking when they (the governors) least expect it,” Twalib said.
Mbarak and the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji have jointly set up a committee to review all files before consent to prosecute is given.
“We would like to work together so all cases that we will take to court have water-tight evidence and have a reasonable chances of success,” Haji told the Star yesterday.
Read: EACC raids Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal’s homes in Sh2bn fraud probe
Speaking in Kisii yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta once again pledged to rid the country of corruption and said thieves would go to jail.
“We will not allow anyone to continue stealing money from public coffers,” the head of state said while touring Kisii.
For the great majority of Kenyans, the biggest concern about devolution’s slow pace of success has been corruption. A recent opinion poll by Transparency International-Kenya (TI-K) found that 59 per cent of Kenyans perceive corruption to be the biggest threat to devolution. Eleven per cent said political wrangles were a threat to devolution, and seven per cent said low funding to counties was threatening devolution.
Mismanagement of public funds in the counties has also been periodically mentioned in reports by the Auditor General, the Controller of Budget and the Commission on Revenue Allocation.
According to these reports, improper procurement procedures have contributed to corruption. The ‘get-rich-now’ attitude prevalent among some county officials has also contributed to misuse of public funds through unnecessary domestic and foreign trips and inflated numbers of MCA sittings to get additional allowances.
Yesterday EACC detectives simultaneously raided the homes and of Samburu Governor Moses Kasaine and his entire cabinet, as they looked for documents.
Kasaine, who is serving his second term on a Jubilee ticket, later was taken into custody by EACC detectives and could be arraigned in court this morning.
Detectives raided the governor’s palatial homes in Nairobi and Samburu in connection with irregular use of Sh2 billion.
Senior county officers and contractors brazenly raided public coffers and siphoned funds through proxy companies in the last four years.
With Kasaine already in, the EACC’s focus now shifts to the remaining three county chiefs said to have have amassed a lot of wealth by plunder.
The Star understands, that the EACC has already dispatched detectives to strategic homes and offices of the targeted governors and their associates ahead of major raids and arrests in the coming days.
New EACC boss Mbarak is said to have established a special unit of investigators, intelligence and legal officers dedicated to dealing with corruption in the counties.
Read: [VIDEO] Samburu Governor reshuffles executives in fight against corruption
The officers have been profiling and tracking down assets owned by corruption suspects as the commission casts a wide net to seize properties in asset recovery efforts.
The move is said to have hastened graft cases involving county bosses after years of lethargy at the commission.
Previously, there have been claims of the agency being sidelined in President Kenyatta’s renewed war on graft, following turf wars and some officers at the agency holding brief for graft lords. It is hoped this will shift under Twalib’s reign.
The graft czar said some counties were awarding tenders at inflated costs and then paying millions of shillings to contractors upfront, even before projects are completed — a clear avenue for kickbacks.
“Some governors have become overnight millionaires. We shall expand both covert and overt operations in all counties until sanity in governance is restored,” Twalib told the Star.
The operations will be extended to assets tracing and recovery, he noted, calling on he public to assist the commission in volunteering critical information on misuse of public funds in all counties.
Twalib, a former intelligence officer, has promised to ruthlessly deal with governors superintending graft.
Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong and former governors Waithaka Mwangi (Nyandarua) and Evans Kidero (Nairobi) are among those battling corruption cases in court.
Ojaamong is accused of embezzling Sh8 million after allegedly engaging a company for a feasibility study on waste management, which the county had not bueted..
In August last year, Kidero denied three counts of fraud and was released on bail in a case involving the loss of Sh213million.
Waithaka was charged in July last year with “willful failure to comply with the law relating to the procurement, contrary to Section 48 of the Economic Crimes Act, 2003”.