Sonko promises to appoint deputy on fear he may be charged with graft
By Eric Wainaina and Lewis Njoka
Fears that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko could be arrested over graft claims related to multi-million-shilling garbage tenders at City Hall have reportedly pushed him to consider picking a deputy, who will take charge should he be arraigned.
Sonko was this week grilled by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) over corruption claims and failure to remit Sh4.5 billion in taxes.
Addressing the press on Thursday after the questioning on failure to remit taxes, which took place at Ushuru Pension Towers in Upper Hill, Nairobi, Sonko said he would announce a deputy governor nominee Friday.
“We have been in a constitutional crisis. I will pick someone,” Sonko told reporters even as he promised to take responsibility if evidence links him to graft claims.
He promised to step down if found culpable of corruption, saying leaders cannot purport to fight corruption while holding on to office when facing corruption allegations. He promised to bear personal responsibility if found culpable.
“If found culpable, I will carry my own cross, I will carry the responsibility personally as the Governor of Nairobi. We have to fight corruption, we can’t say we are fighting corruption if when we are accused of the vice we still remain in office,” he said.
On Wednesday, Sonko spent 10 hours at Integrity Centre, the operations nerve centre of EACC, where he was put to task to explain the executive’s alleged role in the awarding and consequent payment of controversial garbage collection tenders amounting to over Sh600 million.
The investigators intimated that garbage collection contracts and payments were irregularly made, citing two financial years— 2017/18 and 2018/19. Sonko is also accused of allegedly receiving kickbacks from the companies, claims that he has rubbished.
According to EACC, Sh162,092,407 was paid to two firms for collecting garbage in areas they had not been pre-qualified for. This is part of the Sh202, 996,053 payments made to 11 firms flagged by the Nairobi County Assembly Public Accounts Committee as allegedly having been paid without supporting payment vouchers.
There are reports that EACC has almost finalised the probe and could pass the file to Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to approve the Governor's prosecution anytime, which his allies say may have forced him to change his thoughts on the nomination of a deputy governor.
Should the DPP give a nod on his prosecution, Sonko will be required to stay out of office until the case is heard and concluded in line with a July ruling by High Court judge Justice Mumbi Ngugi. In such scenario, without a deputy governor or a substantive Speaker of the County Assembly, the county would be plunged into a crisis.
On July 24, Justice Ngugi ordered governors charged with economic crimes to vacate office for the duration of their trial.
The ruling has seen Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who is facing graft charges, remain out of office. His deputy James Nyoro took over operations in the county as Waititu fights to clear his name in court.
But unlike Kiambu, Nairobi has been without a deputy governor since Polycarp Igathe resigned in January, last year, citing frustration and a strained relationship with Sonko.
Early this year when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Devolution, which had summoned him over the deputy governor issue, Sonko described the matter as a non-issue, adding that he would appoint a deputy if the House approves a law guiding such a procedure.
This is despite President Uhuru Kenyatta in May signing into law a bill dubbed the Assumption of the Office of Governor Act, which is a brainchild of Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, that required the seat to be filled within two weeks after falling vacant.