EACC zeroes in on Waititu over Sh1bn ‘Kaa Sober’ project

By Eric Wainaina On Tue, 6 Aug, 2019 16:54 | 3 mins read
Justice Korir, in his verdict, said he could not stop a Judicial process that is being undertaken by a competent judge of the High Court. [PHOTO | FILE]
Former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu. PHOTO | FILE
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    At least 6,500 people, a number that keeps changing, were paid Sh400 daily for close to a year to do menial jobs usually assigned to county staff.

The woes bedeviling Ferdinand Waititu appear to be deepening after the anti-graft agency turned its focus on a controversial rehabilitation project dubbed Kaa Sober.

After charging the Kiambu governor and his wife Susan Wangari for allegedly enriching themselves using fraudulent county roads tender, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is now investigating Mr Waititu over possible theft and misuse of nearly Sh1 billion through the Kaa Sober project.

According to some members of the Kiambu County Assembly, reps never approved the project despite gobbling up at least Sh2 million daily, and investigators are probing a theory that it could have been an avenue for theft.

On Tuesday, EACC spokesman Yassin Amaro confirmed to K24 Digital that investigations on the project are almost complete, noting that Mr Waititu and other county officials linked to the scam will start appearing before the commission.  

“We (EACC) have been investigating the matter (Kaa Sober) and several people have been summoned. According to the investigating officers, they are finalising (their investigations) on the matter,” Mr Amaro said.

The project was started in February, 2018 and the beneficiaries, who according to the governor were 6,500, were paid Sh400 daily for doing menial jobs usually assigned to county staff.

Changing figures

However, some local leaders led by Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi and Woman Representative Gathoni Wa Muchamba doubted the number, arguing that the figure was exaggerated to facilitate fraud, especially after the governor kept changing the figures.

On May 11, 2018, Mr Waititu in his state of the county address, placed the number at 4, 000.

Thirteen days later, during a function officiated by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta at Githunguri, he raised it to 5, 000, a number later revise upwards to 6, 500, putting the cost as Sh2.5 million per day.

No receipts issued

The payments were made every evening through ward reps or selected administrators who would collect cash from the county office and then hand it to beneficiaries. There were no documents given to the beneficiaries to confirm receipt of the cash.

The beleaguered governor terminated the programme in January this year in a ceremony that cost the taxpayer a questionable Sh104 million sendoff package. In the sendoff package, each recipient got a Sh20,000 cheque.

EACC detectives have been visiting the wards in Kiambu to collect information as they seek to unravel the scandal.

Kiambu County Assembly Majority Leader Gideon Gachara confirmed that the sleuths have visited some wards in the county as they seek to build a case which could lead to another possible arrest of the governor and some county officials.

A manager in one of the wards in Kiambu East told K24 Digital that detectives wanted to know how the project operated, the number of beneficiaries, whether they were all paid and the mode of payment.

Audit ordered

In May this year, the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Investments Committee ordered the Auditor-General to conduct special audit on the programme following a request from Mr Wamatangi.

The senator also asked the committee to consider hiring a reputable private audit company to undertake a parallel audit.

“This committee also requests the Auditor-General to table in line with Article 229 (of the Constitution), the audited accounts of Kiambu Alcoholic Control Fund…I believe that that is what is called Kaa Sober in the street language,” Senator Moses Kajwang, who is the chair of the committee directed.

But on May 22, instead of facilitating the audit, ward reps in a supplementary budget report done by finance committee rushed to approve an expenditure of Sh722 million for the controversial programme.

The move was widely seen as a cover-up plot and a scheme to sanitise the questionable expenditure.

Local leaders and experts, including the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) doubted the program’s effectiveness and sustainability, with locals viewing it as an avenue for theft and a breeding ground for political militia.

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