No Cabinet for you yet, Ngilu and Kambi told
There may be no quick return to the Cabinet for four suspended ministers even after the Director of Public Prosecutions and the anti-graft body separately cleared them of some of the corruption allegations facing them.
A top State House official Saturday remained non-committal on the possible return to office of Cabinet Secretaries Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Charity Ngilu (Lands), Kazungu Kambi (Labour) and Davis Chirchir (Energy).
“That is the President’s prerogative and I cannot speculate on that,” the President’s senior constitutional and legal affairs adviser Abdikadir Mohammed told the Sunday Nation.
At the same time, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) clarified that Mrs Ngilu, Mr Kambi and Mr Chirchir were not out of the woods yet, since their files were still under active investigation.
Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau, who was on Thursday charged with colluding with officials of a construction company to steal public funds, remains under investigation on other matters.
Commission Secretary Halakhe Waqo said that apart from Mr Koskei, the other three Cabinet Secretaries were still under investigation on other corruption allegations and, as such, they cannot go back to their jobs.
“None of these people has been cleared of all the allegations. You’ll recall that all of them had two or more allegations against them. But the way we operate is that we look at each allegation independently and forward our recommendation to the DPP on that particular allegation,” Mr Waqo said.
For instance, according to Mr Waqo, despite the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko closing Mr Kambi’s file on the board appointments of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), he remains under investigation over the controversial Sh5 billion Tassia II project tender.
Yesterday, Mr Koskei told the Sunday Nation that he was uncertain about when he could resume his ministerial duties despite the DPP having directed closure of the investigation file on him.
“I have not received any communication so I cannot tell you when I will go back to my office. I am waiting for everything to be made clear to me,” he said.
Mr Kambi said he could not comment on whether or when he would go back to his job at the Labour ministry.
Meanwhile, Mrs Ngilu has travelled to France to attend a UN conference, raising questions on what capacity she was operating.
“Today I depart for a 6th Leaders Council meeting for the sustainable development solution network, an agent of the UN in France,” Mrs Ngilu had on June 3 posted on her official Twitter handle.
But the President’s spokesman, Mr Manoah Esipisu, had said the suspended Cabinet Secretary had travelled in her private capacity.
“She was invited as a private individual and travelled as such. However, because of her status in government, despite having stepped aside, she had to be cleared by the President. But she is footing her costs,” Mr Esipisu said. The EACC and Mr Tobiko have recently come under public pressure as allegations about extortion and questionable investigation methods by their officers mounted and threatened to derail President Kenyatta’s anti-corruption drive.
HIGH LEVEL CORRUPTION
Junior officials made damning allegations that could spell doom to the drive by the Jubilee Government to get rid of high-level corruption in public offices.
The junior officials, mainly investigators, questioned the methods used by their bosses to clear some of the Cabinet Secretaries, claiming that in some cases they were stopped from taking statements from potential key witnesses.
As such, the investigators said, a majority of the “big fish” have been cleared just on the basis of the statements they provided.
“Some of the allegations facing these Cabinet Secretaries had previously been made by other people who are known and in public. What surprised us, as investigators, is that we were restrained from getting or using their statements. At that point, we knew we were heading nowhere,” an investigator with EACC whom we cannot name because of the nature and sensitivity of the matter said.
In some cases, the main allegations for which the suspects were originally being investigated were discarded for lesser and non-prosecutable charges which saw them get off the hook.
Of the five Cabinet Secretaries who were suspended, only Mr Michael Kamau has been charged in court while the others have had certain files against them closed.
Mr Mohammed, the President’s adviser, said the Head of State had no contribution to make in the manner the EACC and DPP have conducted the investigations so far.
“When the President gave his State of the Nation address (on March 26) he said he had no interest in determining the guilt or otherwise of the people mentioned in corruption allegations. What he was interested in was to see investigations taking place whenever there were allegations because corruption is no doubt a major challenge to our development,” he said.
According to Mr Mohammed, the President remains passionate about fighting corruption but will not interfere with the constitutional mandates of the relevant bodies. “The guilt or otherwise of the people mentioned is not for the President to determine.”
Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli and National Assembly Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo are among the prominent people who have condemned the alleged selective nature of the prosecutions.
“The EACC took a statement from me and, as Cotu, we gave them all the evidence that we have. What has surprised me is that what we complained about has not come out. Instead, the DPP, a man whom I immensely have respect for, has cleared Mr Kambi on the lesser matter of appointments to NSSF board which was already a civil matter in court,” Mr Atwoli said.
“The DPP should not mix politics and professionalism. As workers of this country, we have very credible evidence that will never die. The DPP and EACC can play games now but one day somebody will agree with us,” the Cotu boss said.
The workers’ union, Mr Atwoli said, had given the EACC evidence implicating Mr Kambi in the Sh5 billion Tassia II project, the Mavoko housing project and the proposed construction of the 62-storey tower by NSSF on its piece of land on Kenyatta Avenue.
According to Mr Midiwo, the public should not expect much from the EACC because its investigators are largely drawn from the “corrupt and discounted” police force.
“These investigators cannot investigate cases of mega corruption. The EACC secretariat has also become rogue and, more worrying, the top officials are not allowing the investigators to access potential witnesses for their statements,” said Mr Midiwo.
Responding to the accusations yesterday, Mr Waqo said he was not aware of any of his officers engaging in extortion or the EACC protecting suspects.
“If someone can point to me any of my staff who has engaged in any action that is against the law, I will exercise the legal authority I have to immediately sack the concerned staff,” he said.
According to Mr Waqo, because the investigations are taking place countrywide “some people have been on the rampage claiming to be our investigators” which calls on every Kenyan to be vigilant and “demand their rights”.
He said EACC had released names of 35 individuals who have been masquerading as its officers.
“Typically, the fraudsters present themselves as EACC investigators and use this gimmick to extort money and other benefits from members of the public,” said Mr Waqo.
Mr Tobiko on Friday also denied claims by a section of MPs that he was a stumbling block to the war on graft.
“As DPP, I make my decisions based solely on evidence, facts and the law,” Mr Tobiko had said in defence.
The President’s drive to rid his government of high-level corruption started on March 26 when he attached to his State of the Nation address a confidential Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) dossier that had 175 names of individuals under investigation.