President William Ruto is walking a political tightrope in the fight against corruption as he realizes that members of his inner political circle have been drawn into the maelstrom of corruption.
Kenya’s Kwanza administration is embroiled in a new corruption allegation involving a questionable Sh17 billion oil deal. The president faces a delicate balancing act in his attempt to stem the tide.
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga on Monday stepped up pressure on President Ruto to flog his ministers over their alleged roles in the controversial oil deal.
The former Prime Minister not only called for the resignation of Professor Njuguna Ndung’u (National Treasury and Economic Planning) and Davis Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum) over the intergovernmental fuel saga, but also for their prosecution.
“CS Davis Chirchir and Njuguna Ndung’u violated the constitution, committed criminal offenses and abused their positions. They must not only resign but also be prosecuted,” Mr Odinga said.
He said he had evidence linking the two to the illegal withdrawal of Sh42.97 billion from the Consolidated Fund without Parliament’s approval.
Mr. Odinga claimed that the oil deal was a sham that only benefited a few individuals and cartels, at the expense of the public.
Mr Chirchir, a close ally of Dr Ruto, has been embroiled in other scandals in which he has denied any involvement. Under the previous regime of President Uhuru Kenyatta, he was forced to resign in early 2015 along with four colleagues: Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Michael Kamau (Transport) and Kazungu Kambi (Labour).
Mr. Chirchir was included in the “List of Shame” of the 175-person Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which was submitted as an annex to three reports presented to both houses of Parliament by the President in the part of his state of the nation address.
Just last week, President Ruto’s Chief of Staff and Head of Civil Service, Mr Koskei, ordered the suspension of five CEOs over allegations of corruption and irregularities in the procurement of their parastatals .
A past ghost that catches up with him
He also ordered the suspension of 67 police officers and an accountant from the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA).
The six leaders were Fredrick Mwamati (Tanathi Water Works Development Agency), Stephen Ogenga (Chief Executive Officer, National Industrial Training Authority), Stanvas Ong’alo (Acting CEO, National Museums of Kenya), Benjamin Kai Chilumo (CEO, Huduma Center Secretariat). , Peter Gitaa Koria (CEO, Bomas of Kenya) and Anthony Wamukota (GM, Design and Construction, KETRACO).
But just as Chirchir’s past ghost caught up with him, Professor Ndung’u also survived the scrutiny of MPs when they ignored a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), then chaired by Senator Boni Khalwale, who indicted him for the sale of the regency of Laico. then to the Grand Regency Hotel, in a government-to-government deal that backfired while he was governor of the Central Bank of Kenya.
The development comes after the President warned ministries and state departments against corruption, saying misconduct and bribery will be dealt with mercilessly, quickly and definitively.
In his State of the Nation Address on November 9, the Head of State described corruption, waste, inefficiency and negligence as serious threats to the country’s transformation agenda and unacceptable practices that do not have no place in Kenya.
“I have assured the people of Kenya that cases of misconduct and corruption will be dealt with mercilessly, expeditiously and definitively,” he said.
Dr Ruto also asked MPs to expedite the passage of the Declaration of Assets and Conflict of Interest Bill, which he said will further strengthen the anti-corruption policy framework and eliminate space for those who wish to steal public money.
However, the head of state fought allegations that shadowy “senior officials” provided political cover for such deals.
Busia Senator Okiya Omtata has presented evidence of a government withdrawal of Sh17.22 billion from the Consolidated Fund in June 2023, to subsidize “private financial enterprises”.
The senator’s claim was backed by Mr Odinga who said he suspected the money was linked to the Sh17 billion worth of diesel disputed by a woman named Anne Njeri Njoroge and the two SCs.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the President had made it clear that the fight against corruption was on, calling on the opposition to avoid using political statements to settle political scores.
War against corruption
He cited last week’s suspension of six senior government officials over alleged corruption as a sign that President Ruto will spare no one in the war against corruption.
“The president is engaged, but that doesn’t mean someone is making political statements to achieve political victories,” Cherargei said.
“We must allow the relevant agencies to do their job, because political statements cannot be used to condemn anyone. They must allow proper investigations and legal proceedings to take place,” he added.
When the president took office last year, he pledged to make changes and tackle the challenges that plagued the previous regime, with corruption high on the agenda.
However, corruption has rocked the fledgling administration, with the first scandal involving 3.7 billion shillings coming from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) over insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Later, there was the Sh10.2 billion tender for the supply of fertilizer to the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) awarded to Mashambani Farm Inputs Eldoret Ltd.
There was also the multi-billion shilling edible oil scandal, in which several companies used a single supplier to import 125,000 tonnes of edible oil in violation of public procurement laws.
In May 2023, a toxic sugar scandal also rocked the regime, where 20,000 bags of 50 kg each of toxic sugar were irregularly released for public consumption, leading to a purge that saw 27 officials from 11 government agencies suspended and nine Key suspects arrested.
Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi has argued that appointments made by Kenya’s Kwanza government encouraged corruption in the country, saying individuals involved in corruption worked closely with the president.
He pointed out that the head of state had made appointments to government positions, even going so far as to clear individuals who were fighting corruption cases without having been exonerated by a court.
“Some of the people allegedly involved in this sugar scandal, even Kemsa, were sitting behind him,” Osotsi said.
A January report from Transparency International Kenya criticized the current regime, saying it had yet to live up to its anti-corruption promises.
The report says Kenya’s Kwanza government has repeatedly ignored the standards of leadership and integrity set out in Chapter Six of the Constitution by appointing to public office persons who are under investigation or who have been accused of criminal cases, economic crimes and corruption.
Nonetheless, First Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi defended the government, saying it was determined to slay the dragon of impunity, greed and corruption.
“We are ready to confront impunity, greed and corruption. They are our greatest enemies as a nation.