Ruto’s Cabinet nominees face baptism by fire
Some of President William Ruto’s nominees to the Cabinet yesterday had a difficult time fending off integrity allegations against them when they appeared before the parliamentary committee tasked to vet them.
Only Interior and National Administration nominee, Prof Kithuri Kindiki, escaped the terse grilling unscathed. Kindiki, a close ally of the President, was a Senator in the last Parliament and narrowly lost in the race to be Ruto’s running mate.
The National Treasury nominee, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, was hard pressed to defend himself over his performance during his tenure as the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) governor.
He was accused of underperforming during his time in that office, which saw the shilling hit a historic low against major world currencies at the time.
He also found himself on the receiving end over his role in the collapse of Imperial Bank. He was also challenged to explain claims that his wife had a fully paid for holiday to Thailand by the bank which was facing liquidation.
National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed (Suna East) put Ndung’u to task over the two issues.
“A Reuters survey named you as one of the least effective bankers in Africa. With all these failures, what makes you attractive to preside over Kenya’s economy during these harder times?” he asked.
However, Ndung’u told the lawmakers that he was merely a victim of the criminal justice system in all the corruption allegations against him, which he said, were aimed at casting aspersions on his integrity. “During my tenure from 2007 to 2015, there is no bank that collapsed but that doesn’t mean there were no problems. There were problems but we had to develop interventions to save the market. We put in place several mergers to prevent the banks from collapsing.
“Imperial Bank never collapsed when I was at CBK, I had already left,” he told the committee. “The bank collapsed in 2017 when I had already left so it is not true that my wife was paid for the trip by the bank.”
He said the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) should have aided victims of the criminal justice system “but they are the ones coming after us”.
Ndung’u further disclosed to the lawmakers that the case of Grand Regency was a government-to-government sale where CBK was the government’s agency and it gained Sh3.11 billion that was used to upgrade the Lamu Port.
New bank notes tender
Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) questioned the award of the currency-printing tender to De La Rue in which taxpayers lost an estimated Sh3 billion.
Ndung’u was also accused of actively participating in the controversial cancellation of the 2008 tender to print new-generation bank notes.
However, he exonerated himself from blame over the deal. Later, Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action Cabinet Secretary nominee Aisha Jumwa dismissed murder charges against her, stating that she does not even own a firearm.
Appearing before the vetting committee, Jumwa distanced herself from the 2019 shooting of Ngumbao Jola during campaigns for the Ganda Ward by-election.
The former Malindi MP, while empathising with Ngumbao’s family and terming the incident as unfortunate, said she did not shoot the man and that no witness in court has testified against her.
“There are three witnesses who have so far testified in court and none mentioned my name, and there was a ballistic report in public where my name was not in any way mentioned on the same,” she said.
The outspoken politician affirmed to the committee that she was innocent in the case and that the courts will ultimately acquit her for lack of evidence.
She said that the murder case, and the one involving corruption against her that was recently withdrawn by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, were politically motivated.
“I want to say I am innocent as the Constitution suggests, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” she said. “It is in the public domain that these cases were politically instigated. I still repeat it… I am happy that the DPP dropped the case that is touching on the misappropriation of funds issue.”
Another case where she was accused of embezzling NG-CDF money was last week withdrawn by the DPP for lack of sufficient evidence.
EACC list of shame
Meanwhile, Energy nominee Davis Chirchir had a rough time defending his character for having featured in the so-called “List of Shame” prepared by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and which was presented to Parliament by the President Uhuru Kenyatta, who retired last month.
Chirchir’s issues with the EACC date back to his time at the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) — precursor of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission — before he was appointed to the Cabinet in 2013. He was among those named in a kickbacks scandal involving the award of a lucrative ballot paper-printing contract to a British company, Smith and Ouzman. The scandal came to be known as “Chickengate”.
Chirchir told the team led by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula that investigating agencies had cleared him of any wrongdoing.