Graft list:Officials defy orders, vow to stay put

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CHARITY-NGILUPublic and State officers suspected of corruption and who were directed by President Kenyatta to step aside remained in office on Friday.

None of the 175 officials, including Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and governors quit, despite the President’s order that they do so with immediate effect.

Their names were in a report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission attached to the president’s State of the Nation address to Parliament on Thursday.

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It will be made public on Tuesday when MPs start debating the speech.

On Friday, many of those suspected to be on the list protested their innocence, saying they cannot resign on the basis of mere allegations.

A number of governors and MPs said the President had no mandate to ask them to leave their offices.

‘‘Some of them are facing serious criminal charges in a global court. Why are they not stepping aside? If I see his deputy stepping aside, I will do so the next day,” Meru Governor Peter Munya said in apparent reference to Deputy President William Ruto.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei turned up in office as usual before proceeding for an official function at KICC, where he launched the National Coconut Festival.

He insisted he knew nothing about the graft claims about him, adding that he will only step aside if he gets official communication on the matter.

“I have not been officially told to step aside. I have only seen my name in the media. When I see a letter and the grounds for my resignation strong enough to warrant my stepping aside, I will do that. Until then I am on duty,” he said.

The anti-corruption watchdog, he said, had neither summoned him nor had he received any communication asking him to step aside to pave the way for investigations.

Deputy President William Ruto came out in support of the President’s order insisting that all those mentioned must quit.

“We have made our position very clear. Every leader appointed, elected or nominated must be accountable. All those involved in corruption irrespective of their positions must walk the narrow way,” Mr Ruto said in Mombasa.

ON OFFICIAL DUTY

Consumer rights lobby Cofek supported the president’s order and asked him to sack officials who resist it.

“Under article 135 of the Constitution, the president has the powers to fire them,” secretary general Stephen Mutoro said in a statement.

Cord leaders blamed the defiance on Mr Kenyatta himself saying he had powers to act but he chose to abdicate duty.

“That the president condones this illegality and connivance is an indication that he is keen to politicise corruption and ready to abdicate authority to fight corruption,” said Busia County Woman Representative Florence Mutua, who read the statement on behalf of Cord MPs.

And Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and her Roads counterpart Joseph Kamau were both on official duty abroad.

On Friday, Director of Communications at State House Munyori Buku warned against unnecessary speculation over the list: “We urge the country to stay calm. This list will be made public next Tuesday. It is wrong to mention names that may not even be in the list.”

Only a small group of highly trusted people mainly from the Team Uhuru campaign had knowledge of the report.

Asked whether they will leave office, one of the Principal Secretaries, alleged to be among those listed in the report, said: “The order by the President was very clear. It is important to stay away so that this matter is cleared once and forever.”

But Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi said he has never been corrupt and told theSaturday Nation: “I am shocked some journalists struggled to have me incriminated. I want to confirm to you that I am in the office working and will continue doing so. I am a fighter of corruption and there is no way someone will succeed in dragging me into such a list.”

Energy and Petroleum minister Davis Chirchir who has been previously interrogated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over the chickengate scandal was also in office.

He said he had confirmed his name was not listed in the EACC report.

And some commissioners at the EACC also expressed shock at the handling of the confidential report claiming that the commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Halakhe Waqo, acted unilaterally in submitting the document without consulting them.

‘BIGGER PICTURE’

Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo said the President’s decision to act on official corruption was a move in the right direction but warned that it would be bad if those that may be innocent were not given an opportunity to clear their names.

“There may be a few issues with that list here and there but let’s us look at the bigger picture,” Mr Midiwo stated.

Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki dismissed the President’s list as mere speculation adding that he would not step aside.

Several governors including Bomet’s Isaac Ruto and Mr Munya dismissed the President’s order as more of a political statement and a public relations gimmick than a genuine anti-graft war.

They reported to work at the Council of Governors’ Westlands Headquarters, where they have offices.

The governors said the President could have taken the bold move to sack Cabinet and principal secretaries, who are directly appointed by him, to demonstrate that he was ready to get rid of corruption.

“Government officials can be fired or the President can give an executive order. Vacation of office by the governors is governed by the Constitution,” Mr Ruto said during a press conference in Nairobi.

In Homa Bay, Governor Cyprian Awiti expressed shock at the inclusion of his name in the list adding that his conscience was clear.

However, on Wednesday, the Homa Bay County Assembly approved a committee report questioning the payment of millions of shillings to a dubious construction firm which has already abandoned the site of its project.

In Machakos, Dr Alfred Mutua denied allegations of corruption insisting he was being fought because of his strong position on the vice.

He said that the balance that remained after the purchase of the vehicles for the executives was used to procure ambulances for each of the 70 locations in the county.

Marsabit’s Ukur Yattani blamed Mr Waqo for including his name in the list of shame claiming that the EACC boss is just playing local politics.

“The fact that the report is attributed to the head of secretariat of EACC, who himself is a local of this county and is allegedly preparing to run for the gubernatorial seat in the next election, is a clear indication that he is trying to use the commission to advance a political cause by maligning other competitors,” he said.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado denied allegations of graft and said he was “as clean as snow”.

He, however, stated that anti-corruption bodies were free to probe operations of the Migori county government.

‘‘I have done nothing wrong since I assumed office. I have been serving my people diligently and selflessly,” he said.

-nation.co.ke

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