By Kenya Confidential Health Editor – Nairobi, November 2, 2016
Nation Media company received Health Ministry cash, Cabinet Secretary Mucheru says in letter to Media Council
Information. Communications and Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has faulted Nation Media Group over its report of the Ksh5.3 billion Ministry of Health alleged scandal, saying a company it owns also received Ksh2.3 million.
Mucheru, in a complaint letter to Media Council of Kenya, said the leaked ‘internal audit report’ that the media house used for its expose mentioned the company known as Gazeti Limited. He said Nation purposely failed to quote the company in the expose carried by its publication Business Daily.
“If Business Daily, and by extension NMG, believes the payment made to Gazeti Limited, which was also listed in the report, was proper and done within the course of doing regular business, why would they accuse everyone else listed in the same report as having engaged in theft or fraud?” he asks.
Mucheru further said it was wrong for the newspaper to carry the story based on a leaked interim audit report. “Interim audits are documents that raise queries for management to respond to or clarify and its only a final report that can be quoted for reference purposes,” he stated.
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The Cabinet Secretary lodged a formal complaint against Nation Media Group for allegedly publishing defamatory content. He asked the Media Council to play its role and push the media house to provide materials proving Health ministry officials stole any money.
He said in a letter addressed to Council chairman Charles Kerich that he wants NMG to apologise for alleging health officials were linked to the theft.
“We call on MCK to play its role as arbiter and regulator and compel Nation media outlets Business Daily and NTV to provide proof of theft by government officers as contained in their newspaper report,” he said.
A file photo of ICT CS Joe Mucheru
The Cabinet Secretary said the news story carried by Business Daily was slanderous malicious and contrary to media ethics. He added that NTV carried the same story a day later but with more graphics, labeling government officers as ‘Majambazi (thugs)‘.
“Business Daily and NTV must be compelled to show where, in the interim report, it is stated that Health ministry officials stole more than Sh5.3 billion… We hope they will table any proof they have,” he said.
Kerich said the letter was forwarded to the newly formed Media Council complaints committee. Tom Mshindi, Nation Media Group Editor in Chief, said they had seen a copy of the document but “interestingly” noted that it was not signed.
“However we note the contents, we note the sentiments. We, at this point, do not want to comment on it because it has been addressed to the council,” he said.
“We will wait for the council to give directions and will obviously respond as appropriate. If we need to defend ourselves we will defend ourselves. We intend to honour any summons directed at us by the council.”
Last Friday, Health PS Nicholas Muraguri apologised for threatening the Business Daily journalist who reported the alleged theft.
The newspaper had reported that Ksh5 billion was allegedly stolen by the Ministry’s officials through manipulation of the Integrated Financial Management Information System. Business Daily claimed Muraguri came to the Ministry’s defence saying the government can get into newsrooms systems and see what they write before it is published.
“Someone can be reading your story while seated here. If there is need to hack Nation’s system we can,” he told a journalist in a phone message when asked about the audit report.
It is not clear whether he was referring to the ability of the ICT Ministry, which has launched the complaint on behalf of his Ministry.