ICTVILLE

Graft claims rock Jubilee government

Posted In NEWS - By admin on Sunday, February 16th, 2014 With No Comments »
President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto’s government has been accused of spearheading numerous questionable deals.

President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto’s government has been accused of spearheading numerous questionable deals.

If Michela Wrong decided to evaluate the performance of the Jubilee government, perhaps the British journalist and author would want find out if the ‘It’s our Time to Eat’ mindset has been purged.

But just like the previous government, the Jubilee government is battling questions over controversial public appointments, procurement deals and government intolerance to criticism. Furthermore, there is a general sense of the entrenchment of wheeler-dealers, tender peddlers and powerful government officials fighting to pocket public money.

On Thursday, civil society groups staged a demonstration in Nairobi to protest the state of affairs.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has on various times voiced concern over the influence of unnamed “brokers” and corruption in his office, warning of a crackdown.

“In my office, there are people who think that it is a house for making money. We must agree it has to come to an end,” the President warned as he launched Security Sector Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) on February 7. “Watu wajipange (Let them be ready). Something will happen soon.”

He said that the money allocated for security must go to equip the police and fuel their vehicles and not find its way into individuals’ pockets.

But as the government moves to implement it election pledged it is not escaping from procurement controversy and allegations of high-level corruption.

The government’s skewed public appointments that ignore ethnic balance have also been criticised.

“It is a serious matter,” said former Vice President and Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka. “It is a terrible situation and I am not saying so because I am in the opposition but I see the country in dire straits.”

According to former Ethics Permanent Secretary in the Narc government Mr John Githongo, there is a widespread perception of major “eating” driven in part by the size of the infrastructure projects and the bizarre contradictory explanations by different government of officers regarding their cost, implementation and financing.

“So the public is hugely sceptical. Ironically, corruption is 50 per cent perception and 50 per cent reality. This government is at the point where it’s going to lose the perception battle. After that even buying bottled water will cause suspicion,” said Mr Githongo, who now runs Inuka Kenya, a civil society organisation.

Mr Githongo said it’s a deeply unfortunate condition for the government to face such negative perceptions less than one year into office.

But State House defended the government arguing that those who were criticising the infrastructure projects were soar losers.

“There is no law that has been broken and if the law was broken, this country has mechanisms to deal with the same,” said Mr Munyori Buku, director of public communications in State House.

Despite State House’s position, Mr Githongo hopes the President will act on the corrupt senior officers in his office in order to regain the confidence of the nation.

“They say a fish rots from the head. The President has been clear and forceful of late with regard to the fact that corruption in the Office of the President and the embedded networks are a problem he’s determined to deal with. So let’s watch closely,” he said.

According to the executive director of Transparency International-Kenya Mr Samuel Kimeu, procurement, especially those involving huge sums of money have not always been handled well.

“When you look at Jubilee, they want to do things swiftly without respect for the law because there is a feeling that the country’s procurement laws are long and winding. I know these are legitimate concerns, but that is not a reason to skirt around them,” said Mr Kimeu.

The TI-Kenya boss added: “Often, procurements that attract huge sums of money are the ones that are easy to manipulate and these are mainly in the infrastructure sector,”

President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have also faced criticism over government spending. It started with the hiring of a luxury jet, later nicknamed “hustler jet”, used by Mr Ruto for a West African tour.

SPENT OVER SH100M

It was reported the deputy president spent Sh100 million of taxpayers’ money to hire a luxury jet but the government maintained that the actual cost was Sh18.5 million. Auditor General Edward Ouko has, for example, said his officers are unable to get some documents liked to the deal.

Currently, the standard gauge railway project has been the talk of the town even though the President has defended. The contract was awarded to China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) in what has become commonly referred to as a government-to-government deal between Kenya and China.

The President had on January 28 said the EXIM Bank of China will provide a commercial loan of $1.6 billion and a concessional loan of $1.63 billion – a total of $3.23 billion (nearly Sh300 billion ) – for development of Phase 1 of the project covering the 609 kilometres from Mombasa to Nairobi. The cost of the contract was initially said to rise above a trillion shillings with the planned extension to Malaba.

Mr Buku said the trillion shilling budget was a creation of rival companies.

Then on Thursday, the Registrar of Companies Bernice Gachegu lifted the lid on the identities of two Kenyans, Peter Gatere and Leonard Mwangi, who had also registered a local company by the name China Roads and Bridges Corporation-Kenya.

Prior to the disclosure by Ms Gachegu, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter had led a one-man battle against single-sourcing the multibillion shillings tender to CRBC. He was quickly dismissed that he was acting on behalf of rival firms who lost out in the tender.

“The standard gauge railway, if you look at the history, began six years ago. Why was there no noise then? Those at the forefront making noise are brokers and bad losers,” said Mr Buku who also said the argument that Ethiopia that was doing two railway lines at a cheaper cost was not true.

Last week, another multi-billion shillings tender was awarded to Olive Telecommunications of India for the primary school laptops project. The Indian firm will supply 1.2 million laptops at a cost of Sh24.6 billion having beaten Chinese company Haier and HP in the bidding process. Once again, before the ink could dry on the contract, questions have arisen with the losing companies seeking to overturn the award.

“There is no race to eat but to give children of Kenya laptops and development projects. These are investments,” said Mr Buku.

Sources have indicated to Sunday Nation that the companies may have the backing of powerful individuals seeking to get a cut from the deal. It is understood that while the URP side of the coalition is satisfied with the laptops project tender some within the Jubilee wing are not satisfied and may be working to have their favoured company win the tender.

Yet more evidence that it is their turn to eat has emerged in Kitui County where the government awarded Fenxi Mining Company concession rights to mine and sell the Sh6.9 trillion coal deposits in Mui basin.

In the agreement, the Chinese firm will only pay between 22 and 23 per cent to the government in gross revenue while retaining 76.4 per cent to recover their investment by selling the resource to domestic and foreign market.

The chairman of Kenya Human Rights Commission, Prof Makau Mutua, described the deal as “lopsided and measly”.

“This basic framework is lopsided in favour of Fenxi Mining Group.  It’s long in duration — 21 years.  It allows Fenxi to sell the contracts to a third party, which is dangerous and expensive. The last nail on the coffin is the percent to be paid to government: between 22-23 per cent. That’s a measly sum,” he said.

Furthermore, the Chinese company has no obligation to hire local labour, buy local materials from Kenya or sub-contract Kenyan businesses. As part of the deal, the government is supposed to buy 11 per cent stake in Fenxi.

Parliament is currently investigating the Sh5.5 billion tender awarded to China Jiangxi International-Kenya for infrastructure development at National Social Security Fund (NSSF) linked Tassia Estate in Embakasi. At the coast region, local leaders are against the exportation of 25,000 tonnes of titanium because the local communities will not benefit.

According to Mr Kimeu, what is happening right now in the public procurement is just a continuation by those in government to steal public resources. “We never see the documents to determine the value for money yet the Constitution allows the freedom of information. The procurement regime in this country is being bastardised yet the laws were borrowed from international best practices,” said Mr Kimeu.

Determining who is “eating” more than the other between TNA and URP may not be so obvious, according to Mr Githongo. But the side that makes the loudest noise to cause distraction usually feels left out of the feeding frenzy.

“Though one doesn’t expect people to stand up and say ‘We are not eating enough’, it’s easier and safer for them to cause political problems and distractions as a way to expressing their unhappiness with regard to getting deals to rip off Kenyans,” said the anti-corruption crusader.

In terms of appointments, business at the East African Portland Cement has been disrupted following the attempted ouster of chairman Mark Karbolo and replace him with former CMC boss Bill Lay. The change by President Kenyatta, which has been temporarily halted by the High Court, is suspected to be linked to efforts to sell the cement manufacturer to Nigerian billionare Aliko Dangote.

On appointments, government has been accused of appointing only members of certain communities.

The matter has been raised in Parliament, including last September after the appointment of Mr Joseph Kinyua as Chief of staff and head of public service.
“It perpetuates the view that the President is surrounding himself with people of a particular community,” said Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo.

But Majority Leader Aden Duale defended the appointment of the former long-serving Treasury Permanent Secretary to the new position
Speaking to Sunday Nation on Saturday, Mr Kimeu also raised concern.

“It has been a concern for many Kenyans that our desire for cohesion and our need to have all the faces of Kenyans represented have not been achieved. There is a lot that still needs to be done to have the face of Kenya in all public appointments.”

APPOINTMENTS

Last December President Kenyatta caused a storm when he appointed 26 people to chair various state corporations. Most of them were politicians linked to the Jubilee coalition who had been beaten in the elections and retired civil servants.

The picking of Mr Francis Muthaura to head the multi-billion-shilling Lapsset project particularly encountered opposition.

The 2010 Constitution provides that all public appointments as well as allocation of public resources must consider gender and ethnic balance.  However, Mr Githongo argues that the government has failed to observe this constitutional requirement.

“That perception is there and when combined with perceptions with regard to corruption it poisons the politics along ethnic lines. This is also a growing problem that will manifest in different ways starting at the counties,” said Mr Githongo.

But State House compared questions around the appointments to deep sea fishing by the media.

“There is no issue there. The government has a right to make appointments and in any case the people being appointed are not from Mars. They are Kenyans,” said Mr Buku.

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