NYS scandal deeper than earlier thought

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The photo dated 2015 shows a smiling portrait of President Uhuru Kenyatta witnessing a visibly cunning jungle-shirt dressed Adan Harakhe, senior deputy director-general of the National Youth Service eyes piercing his computer screen as his password worked miracles multiplying zeroes to turn thousands into millions and billions. 

By Kenya Confidential Judicial Affairs Editor, Nairobi – October 6, 2016

Uhuru may have good intentions to fight corruption, he may even have the political will, but he is held hostage by cartels manned by hardcore looters with decades of experience in public coffers looting

Investigations into the Sh791 million National Youth Service (NYS) scandal is unashamedly turning into a soap opera travesty of Goldenberg-type looting that was protected all round from State House to all investigative agencies.

Senior deputy director-general of the National Youth Service Adan Harakhe, was suspended three times for criminal conduct but after serving a month’s suspension, he each time returned to earn a promotion, perhaps because he opened the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) looting window wide open.

Oddly, but not surprising, the Director of Public Prosecutions (not Investigations) (DPP), Mr Keriako Tobiko, overturned a decision of the Director of Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to have Mr Harakhe prosecuted for his alleged role in the scandal, and directed that he be treated as a witness to the plunder of public funds now in excess of Ksh 1.8 billion.

Director of Directorate of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro, when appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), rejected a claim by the former NYS Director-General Harakhe, whom investigations appeared to have centred on, that his password was stolen and used in the fraudulent transactions, saying there was no evidence that it was hacked.

insatiable-nys-python

Muhoro said entries were made into the Integrated Financial Management Information System using Mr Harakhe’s password and username, in which zeroes were added to figures, converting them into hundreds of millions of shillings.

For instance, an audit of the cost of a road in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, by the Ministry of Public Works, indicated that it cost Ksh78 million, but three companies owned by one of the key suspects, Ms Josephine Kabura, the emerging NYS Kamlesh Pattni equivalent, were paid Ksh 791 million, with investigations by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations indicating zeroes were added to inflate the figures.

The DCI boss told the PAC, chaired by the deputy chairman, Kipkelion West MP Jackson Rop, that investigations also indicated that 21 other companies were involved in fraudulent NYS transactions and were reportedly paid Ksh 999 million, one million shy of a billion, bringing the total amount so far established to have been stolen from NYS in a single financial year to over Ksh 1.8 billion.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has also warned of an evolving scandal, saying billions may have been stolen and top government officials sucked into the corruption as fraudsters dipped their fingers into the lucrative Ksh 25 billion NYS coffers, in one of the biggest scandals to hit the country in recent times.

Unaccountable wealth

Investigations by the Banking Fraud Investigation Unit also revealed drama and intrigues, with some of the huge cash withdrawals by Ms Kabura taking place at ungodly hour of 3.00 in the morning at Family Bank, KTDA Branch in Nairobi, with most of the payments being made to a Ben Gethi, who had on Tuesday denied links with Ms Kabura.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keriako Tobiko, was also sucked into the rich mix of NYS intrigues after it emerged that he overuled a decision of the DCI to have Harakhe prosecuted for his alleged role in the scandal, and directed that he be treated as a “witness”.

“Our recommendation, which were based on material facts is that Harakhe should face prosecution. He (DPP), however, advised that he remain a witness. Our stand has, however, not changed,” Muhoro said.

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Members of Parliament have formed the perception that the former NYS boss has protection in “high places” with questions being raised about the meteoric rise in the career of Harakhe from a junior primary schoolteacher to a senior government official.

It would be interesting to hear from the Public Service Commission and indeed, the Head of Civil Service Henry Kinyua, what special courses, public or by correspondence, that Harakhe undertook to shoot like a meteorite from a chalk dust covered primary school teacher to a top financial officer with authority to incur billions of shillings worth of public funds expenditure.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega said evidence adduced before the committee indicated that Harakhe had been suspended three times for criminal conduct but after serving a month’s suspension, he each time returned to earn a promotion.

“The ‘clearance’ by the DPP lends credence to perception that he was protected, in addition to the fact that he was earning a full salary and privileges even though he had been interdicted.”

angloleasing-looting

Kenya under the Jubilee government is the only country in the world where public officers suspended on corruption or criminal grounds end up drawing full salary and allowances full time. A least the former President Mwai Kibaki regime had the decency of publicly sending ministers like Amos Kimunya, Moses Wetangula, Kiraitu Muriungi and David Mwiraria  home at half salary although they found their way back later. the good thing Uhuru did is that his ministers never went back.

The ministers sent home after the 2014 so-called List of Shame made public in Parliament by President Uhuru collected their full salaries for close to a year while Governors refused to step aside. Uhuru may have good intentions to fight corruption, he may even have the political will, but he is held hostage by cartels manned by hardcore looters with decades of experience in public coffers looting.

Indeed, Kabura was scheduled to appear before the PAC after Muhoro but was advised by her management cartel to call it off for a fortnight within which she will be debriefed to counter revelation by Gethi and Muhoro about her links and cash transfers from her accounts. She will be instructed to disown any transactions. This is the same think tank that came up with her infamous affidavit, which roped in many civil servants and politicians onto the NYS gravy train.

How can a government claim to be fighting corruption when such obvious cases of glaring selective favouritism are common place? Is it a wonder that the Kenya Government loses a third of its budget when top civil servants are allowed to steal openly and collude to cover up across the board all the way from State House, through investigative and prosecution ranks to courts?

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Judiciary are three key agencies that should be at the forefront of fighting corruption but they appear to be working at cross purposes.

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Parliament appears to be more thorough and determined to fight corruption than the institutions entrusted with that task. Too often the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), expose prosecutable evidence against corrupt public officers who the assigned agencies take months or years before they take any action. By so doing they allow corrupt officers to destroy evidence and corrupt investigators along with judicial officers when need arises.

An innocent bystander is all this is the National Intelligence Service (NIS), which appears never to be bothered by financial impropriety that openly threatens National Security. Corruption facilitates terrorism, poaching and all known crimes against humanity but traditionally NIS concentrated on political babysitting for those in power until the Goldenberg looting when the then Director General James Kanyotu was co-opted as a director.

In the notorious Dictator Daniel arap Moi era, exposing corruption was officially treated as sedition that landed many journalists in courts. The weekly publication Financial Review was banned in May 1989 when it started prying into Goldenberg payments of millions of shillings for phantom gold and diamond exports.

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