By Seth Onyango and Mercy Mwai.
Three Cabinet Secretaries are hanging onto their jobs by a thread following months of scandals and claims of mismanagement that have tainted their dockets.
Henry Rotich (Treasury), Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture) and Simon Chelugui (Water and Irrigation) could be in trouble as President Uhuru Kenyatta moves to re-assemble his team to actualise his Big Four agenda blueprint.
Reports that the three CSs could be sitting on the edge emerged even as the Treasury and Water ministries were put on the spot after an audit report questioned an advance payment of Sh4.2 billion for the construction of Arror and Kimwarer dams amid claims that the money might have been shelled out to phantom firms.
Auditor General Edward Ouko poked holes into the payment of the money that was sourced from foreign borrowing to Italian firm CMC Di Ravenna-Itinery JV, yet nothing has been done on site in Elgeyo Marakwet county.
“Even though the advance payment of Sh4.2 billion was made through a memorandum payment voucher dated December 7, 2017, no work has been done on the ground to cover the payment,” the auditor notes.
In a report tabled in the National Assembly for the State Department for Planning and Statistics for the year ending June 2018, Ouko says Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), the implementing entity, had not recommended the advance payment that represented 15 per cent of the contract sum.
“The advance payment claim certificate equivalent of Sh4.2 billion which was used for payment was not dated, had not been recommended by KVDA general manager, technical services and was not approved by CEO KVDA,” reads the report.
Ouko also raises concern that despite the payment, the Kenya Forest Service that was supposed to cede part of its land for the dams construction is yet to do so.
In what is likely to put Rotich and Chelugui in a tight spot, the auditor says there is no evidence of who was paid the Sh4.2 billion, when it was paid, by who and who granted the authority for the money the payment, adding that no environmental impact assessment report was provided for audit.
Impeccable sources told People Daily that the two CSs might be the first casualties as Uhuru moves to weed out officials who are either tainted by claims of corruption and mismanagement or are inept.
According to our sources, action on the two ministers and Kiunjuri, who is accused of ineptitude, could set the stage for a widely expected Cabinet reshuffle, coming on the back of the now discredited alleged plot to assassinate Deputy President William Ruto.
Four Cabinet secretaries have been accused of taking part in clandestine meetings aimed at hatching a plot to eliminate Ruto.
Yesterday, sources told People Daily that Rotich, who presented his Sh2.8 trillion Budget barely a month ago, had lost State House’s confidence and that of development partners.
“The minister’s troubles revolve around loss of credibility, particularly among multilateral agencies including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” revealed the source.
Rotich had recorded statements with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) at least three times before the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji put on hold local investigations to first complete international aspects of the probe.
Although he seemed to have weathered the dams’ storm, Rotich appears to have been allowed time to complete the budget-making process in which Treasury works closely with Parliament.
The DCI is yet to make public its findings from the CS’s questioning but has in the past promised that heads would roll over questionable transactions involving huge amounts of money.
During a recent trip to the United States for a meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, DCI boss George Kinoti pledged that action would be taken against questionable transactions involving huge amounts of money.
The same dams scandal could sweep away Chelugui, the Water CS, who has in the past protested his innocence over the matter.
He is being accused of presiding over a ministry that has lost billions of shillings through inflated contract costs and outright theft of public resources.
Cumulatively since the Jubilee administration took power in 2013, it has committed more than Sh700 billion for the construction of dams.
In the current financial year, Sh25 billion was allocated for construction of dams while in the previous year the budget was Sh21 billion, less than the cost of Arror and Kimwarer dams.
Both Rotich and Chelugui did not respond to attempts to have them respond to the accusations.
Their Cabinet colleague Kiunjuri, is being accused of alleged incompetence in managing the Agriculture ministry, which is tasked to deliver the Food Security pillar of the Big Four agenda.
He is also on the spot for allegedly failing to come up with a clear strategy on food security.
“The minister will oversee the country’s slide into yet another food crisis after making claims less than 18 months ago about a bumper maize harvest,” the source that is familiar with government thinking, said.
According to another government official who also spoke on condition of anonymity, Kiunjuri had failed to convince the Cabinet on his food security strategy.
Instead, he is accused of favouring maize importation that has in the past opened doors for corruption involving influential cartels. (See separate story).
“The minister, for example, has not looked at the Comesa countries that could be having surplus maize which could be cheaper than allowing private companies to import maize from Mexico, which is a haven for corruption,” the official said.
“He is seemingly unable to give policy direction to get Kenya out of the perennial dependency on food imports and is determined to further entrench corruption riddled fertiliser subsidies,” he added.
Like his two colleagues, Kiunjuri did not respond to our calls seeking his reaction to the accusations.