This is an old story that need to be revisited in the age of coronavirus when the incompetent govt of UhuRuto is struggling to keep things in order.
Though the Kenyan government has already secured some billions from the World Ban towards the efforts of containing the coronavirus to the tune of Ksh6.1 billion, the money stolen at the Health Ministry a few years ago in which some members of the first family were mentioned in the scam.
Where corruption involved members of President Uhuru’s family, close circle of friends or tribesmen; resignation or sacking come at high cost. Often, it doesn’t happen. This is the story of the survival of former Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, perhaps, the most corrupt cabinet CS in Uhuru regime.
Transport Minister James Macharia is said to been involved in the Ksh5.3 billion “Mafya” House scandal. This was revealed after it emerged his longtime aide influenced the award of lucrative tenders to her relatives.
The details came to light as the Senate Health Committee summoned Macharia, the former Health boss, and his then Principal Secretary Khadijah Kassachoon in regard to the alleged heist.
Macharia’s Personal Assistant Irene Nanayu is a sister to Naomi Wanjiku Mirithu, a co-director of Medafrica Limited, one of the firms at the heart of the “Mafya House” storm. Wanjiku’s Medafrica co-director Njage Makaga also owns the controversial Estama Investment Limited that pocketed a staggering Sh800 million to supply 100 portable clinics.
From online sources (much have been written about it, no one has disputed it), one can establish that Njange is a close associate of the Minister’s PA and the rigging of the tendering process was meticulously executed.
In fact, it is believed Nanayu has considerable stakes in the firms and only used her sister to conceal her involvement.
That time pressure mounted on Macharia and Health Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri to take political responsibility, although the dirty tricks of Nanayu had not been exposed.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that the Cabinet Secretary who was in charge when the grand theft at the Health ministry took place is James Macharia,” Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi had said last that time. The opposition party ODM now Jubilee bosom buddies has even threatened mass protests.
The Senate Health Committee revealed that many of the suspicious contracts were awarded when Macharia and Kassachoon were in office.
“Of course, we intend to call Macharia and the former PS at a later date depending on the preliminary findings,” then head of Senate Health Committee Wilfred Machage had told journalists in Parliament.
Nothing of such would materialize!
Nanayu was Macharia’s Executive Assistant at NIC Bank before the latter was named Health CS by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Described in Government circles as “ruthless”, Nanayu moved with Macharia to the Health ministry and has since shifted with the CS to the massive Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development.
“The lady is very ruthless. She should herself be summoned to Parliament to explain her relation with contractors,” frustrated Government insiders had said when the scandal was hot.
The sleaze, also linked to Uhuru’s own relatives, turned into a political hot potato for the First Family threatening the careers of the President’s trusted allies. Most of whom nothing happened to, fast forward to today, 2020.
Macharia, the former NIC Bank General Manager, is a close Uhuru confidant and among the Cabinet Secretaries who survived the graft purge that consumed five CSs in 2015. According to the law, a State officer shall not award or influence the award of a contract to himself or herself, the State officer’s or public officer’s spouse or child, or even a business associate or agent.
“A State officer or public officer who has an interest in a matter under consideration in a public procurement or asset disposal shall disclose in writing, the nature of that interest and shall not participate in any procurement or asset disposal relating to that interest,” states The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigated the scandal but the agency which is largely considered moribund did nothing afterwards.
Medafrica was registered on August 12, 2013, four months after Macharia took over as Health boss.
According to records at the Registrar of Companies, Medafrica and Estama have not filed annual returns since their incorporation despite benefiting from some of the lucrative contracts. Nearly all disputed payouts relating to the Sh889 million free maternity funds were made before Macharia left the ministry of health.
In fact, the Sh1 billion contract with Estama Investment Limited to supply portable clinics was signed in July, 2015, although the payments were made this later.
Macharia served as Health CS until November 2015 when he was moved to Transport ministry and Kassachoon to the Ministry of Labour.
The former Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and PS Muraguri, were grilled by both the Senate and EACC with the two engaging in a nasty blame game.
However, Mailu insisted that at the time of procurement, Estama provided tax compliance certificate, contradicting a communique from former Attorney General Githu Muigai.
Mailu also said the tender was above board and declared no money was lost in all the deals flagged by the internal auditor.
“We hereby also confirm that the company provided the requisite tax compliance certificate as well as its pin certificate as required during the procurement process,” Mailu said.
The scandal results from a leaked interim audit report for the 2015/2016 by the ministry‘s head of Internal Audit Bernard Muchere.
He raises queries on expenditure amounting to Sh5 billion, which the ministry was expected to explain before the report could be made public.
“The ongoing audit review on end of year procurements and payments has revealed pertinent issues which raise red flags on possible fraud scheme that require your attention,” Muchere wrote to Dr Mailu on August 29 2016.
He also pointed out at pending bills amounting to Sh2.5 billion from the 2014/2015 financial year despite the Ministry returning over Sh900 million to Treasury. “The pending bills should form the first charge in the subsequent financial year in line with Treasury circulars. Hence the ministry should not have 2014/2015 bills,” he said.
The scandal roped in President Kenyatta’s own relatives.
Uhuru’s sister Nyokabi Kenyatta Muthama and cousin Kathleen Kihanya are directors of a company that pocketed Sh41 million in questionable payouts.
The controversial firm, Sundales International Limited, is listed on the Public Procurement Oversight Authority’s 2014 roll of “Disadvantaged Groups” that should receive preferential treatment when they bid for tenders.
In 2016, a local daily exclusively reported that Sundales, registered on September 12, 2013 – five months after Uhuru’s election – has been awarded Government contracts running into hundreds of millions of shillings.
Between September, 2014, and February 2016, for instance, Sundales won at least five separate tenders from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority — worth Sh270 million.