Governor Waiguru graft case leaves Senate with egg on face
The Senate faces a potentially embarrassing moment should Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru be hauled in court over allegations of corruptly pocketing millions of shillings in relation to non-existent foreign trips.
This is after Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives completed investigations into claims of corruption in relation to questionable trips for which the county could have lost millions of shillings.
Senate, which debated Waiguru’s impeachment motion, cleared her of any impropriety in the matter.
While clearing Waiguru, the Senate committee chaired by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malalah concluded that there was no evidence to support the claims, prompting Speaker Ken Lusaka to stop any further proceedings on the allegations, citing standing orders that bar any investigations on matters that have been concluded by a Special Committee.
The Malalah team, which was backed by pro-Handshake members led by Minority Whip James Orengo, passionately defended Waiguru, terming the accusations levelled against her by the Assembly as false, unfounded, and salacious, which have no place in an impeachment motion.
“From the evidence adduced, the committee established administrative malaise in the management of imprest in Kirinyaga.
The committee first took great exception to the Assembly for listing 12 imprests paid to the governor and alleging that she was issued with imprest, but never travelled or surrendered the imprest,” the committee concluded.
Committee continued: “The Assembly brought 12 allegations and only prosecuted two and abandoned 10.
The governor adduced evidence of the travel and where the travel was never undertaken, the imprest was surrendered throughout the time.”
Anti-graft agency has, however, concluded investigations into allegations of impropriety in the payment of travel imprests running into millions of shillings.
In its report to be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions next week, EACC has recommended that Waiguru and other county officials refund the cash they received illegally, or face abuse of office charges.
On this particular one, Waiguru could be charged as the deceiving principal, the detectives confided in People Daily.
According to EACC, Waiguru received Sh10 million as travel imprest for non-existing trips.
During the period, she is reported to have travelled to the US, UK, France, Morocco, India, Germany and Abu Dhabi, trips that EACC maintains never took place despite the governor and the county officials pocketing approximately Sh20.9 million as allowances.
Only about Sh12 million of this amount was accounted for, according to the detectives.
In the purported trips, EACC says there were no letters on invitation, purpose of the trips was unknown, no approved work plans, no itinerary, not all trips had letters of appointment/nominations or authority to travel outside the country, and that the imprests were neither surrendered nor supported by payment vouchers and boarding purpose.
There were also no back to office reports.
Lawyer Ndegwa Njiru, who represented the MCAs when the matter went to Senate, told People Daily that EACC’s findings had vindicated his clients, who had accused Waiguru of pilfering the county’ funds.
“We took the matter (of the travel imprest) to the Senate but it was thrown out, but EACC took it over. We are glad that it has vindicated us by concluding there was culpability on the part of the governor.
This outcome leaves the Senate with egg on its face, it leaves a lot to be desired and casts doubts on whether it can be trusted to protect public money,” Njiru says.
EACC, in its report dubbed “inquiry into allegations of abuse of office”, says the governor and county officials should be charged with abuse of office, false accounting, deceiving principal and forgery.
They, however, have the option of returning the money, and administrative actions be taken against those who benefited, a move that could leave the Senate gravely exposed.
EACC Spokesperson Yassin Amaro yesterday maintained there was a clear distinction on the roles of the Senate and the anti-corruption agency that do not conflict.
“On the one hand, EACC has a mandate of investigating matters and taking its findings to the DPP. On the other hand, the Senate has the overall mandate of checking county expenditure in order to safeguard public resources.
They do not have the mandate of forwarding their findings to the DPP, but they can share with us so that we can follow up,” Amaro said.
Yesterday, Waiguru linked the timing of EACC’s findings to her move to defect to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) during a meeting with the Deputy President William Ruto on Tuesday.
“Surely, it is barely 48 hours after we decamped to UDA and now this…? As a believer in the rule of law this is really unfortunate.
Its intention is to dissuade those contemplating the same… & an attempt at engineering succession politics… it won’t work. Kenyans are not stupid. And there is God in heaven,” he said.
But her political rival, Kirinyaga Women Rep Wangui Ngirici, who has declared interest to challenge Waiguru for the governor’s seat in 2022, promptly fired back: “When anti-graft agencies strike, don’t blame it on joining UDA. We have built the party from scratch.”