When public coffers guardians turn into uncouth spendthrifts

Thursday, December 24th, 2020 00:00 |
former Nairobi governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko.

Revelations of how former Nairobi governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko used public coffers to treat his daughter to a lavish trip to New York has ignited concerns over how county chiefs use their offices to benefit family members.

Results of various investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) on counties had exposed shocking patterns of governors and top county officials using public money to benefit their families.

Last year, former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero hit headlines when EACC detectives raided his residences in Nairobi as they probed assets he jointly owned with his wife Susan Mboya, estimated at about Sh9 billion.

EACC investigator Mulki Abdi Umar told Justice Hedwig Ong’undi that Kidero and his family owned 11 top of the range vehicles they believed were acquired corruptly.

The anti-graft body said Kidero received millions of shillings held in several accounts and acquired properties in Nairobi during his tenure at Mumias Sugar Company and later as the Governor of Nairobi.

Between January 27, 2011 and December 31, 2015, for example, Kidero allegedly received Sh317,116,000 in cash deposits. He also had over Sh200 million in a fixed deposit account.

“As the petitioners concede, the EACC is empowered, in its investigations, to trace assets by a person.

In doing so, it is empowered to pursue property held by relatives of the persons, or by associates of such persons,” Justice Mumbi Ngugi ruled when allowing EACC to investigate Kidero’s property.

Ill gotten wealth

Several family members of governors have been paraded in court over graft for lavishing in the suspected ill-gotten wealth their parents ordered to be wired to their bank accounts.

Some county chiefs have appeared in court alongside their children to face charges of using funds stolen from counties to enrich themselves and their family members.

The county bosses are also said to have been directing county treasuries to finance flashy trips abroad for their children.

Interestingly, a number of current and former governors have transferred their children to schools and colleges abroad.

Apart from Sonko who allegedly flew his daughter Saumu Agnes Mbuvi to New York using county funds, former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was indicted by the Senate for enriching his daughters using dubious tenders. Migori’s Okoth Obado has also been accused of the same.  

 Sonko, who was tried by the Senate for gross misconduct and abuse of office was exposed as someone who, through fraud, spent taxpayers’ Sh4.6 million to fly Saumu to New York using a first-class flight at a cost of Sh840,000 and hired a chopper for her to tour the city.

Nairobi Minority Leader Michael Ogada, Sonko’s chief accuser, told Senators that the governor was using vulgar language and using county funds to fund his daughter’s trip.

First Ladies Conference

Saumu, according to Ogada, was disguised as a city ward administrator while accompanying her mother Primrose Mweru Mbuvi to the 62nd First Ladies’ conference for 14 days in March 2018 during which she received Sh2.6 million withdrawn from the bank by a county junior officer.

“On the same trip, apart from the first-class ticket, we find that the governor’s daughter had a chopper hired for her at a cost of Sh220,000 to fly her around New York City to see how beautiful it is using public funds.

She went ahead to have a party at a cost of Sh260,000. The same lady was transferred from the First Ladies’ Conference to Philadelphia at a cost of Sh60,000,” Ogada told shocked senators on Wednesday.

Dr Samuel Nyandemo, a senior lecturer at the School of Economics at the University of Nairobi said that the use of public funds to finance and educate children of governors in expensive schools locally and internationally as well as financing their extravagant lifestyles is the order of the day.

 “This is one of the reasons why despite counties getting a lot of money, there has been no meaningful impact.

The money is diverted to non-essential expenditures and I hope EACC is looking into this keenly.

It is a form of corruption because most of these governors and county officials have suddenly taken their children to expensive schools, bought them cars and houses in high-end areas and even given them cash for their lavish lifestyles.

And this wealth cannot be explained meaning that it is stolen money,” said Nyandemo.

A son of a former governor is known to display the family’s opulence in public, driving around in sleek cars, wearing expensive clothes and holding parties in high-end restaurants.

And a son to another sitting governor caused uproar recently when he splashed his pictures on social media in which he posed next to a Sh40 million luxurious sports car.

Obado, who has been barred from accessing his office over a  Sh73 million graft case, has been accused of stealing county money and using it to buy a house for his daughter in an upmarket estate in Nairobi and another to pay school fees, upkeep and maintenance for his three children abroad.

County tenders

The governor, according to a probe by the EACC, used companies belonging to family members and cronies to execute county tenders, and once the payments were done, Sh34 million was used to buy a house in Loresho Ridge for his daughter Evelyn Adhiambo.

Companies that had been awarded the tenders wired Sh43 million to accounts belonging to Dan Achola, Susan Scarlet and Jerry Zachary to finance their education, upkeep, maintenance  and medical bills in Australia, Scotland and United Kingdom while the rest was used to bought two motor vehicles, make Toyota Land Cruiser V 8.

Obado  has been charged in court alongside the four children and is out on bond  pending the  hearing and determination of the case after denying the charges. 

Waititu’s three daughters-Ruth Njeri, Diana Wangoko and Ruth Mumbi were at the centre of a corruption scandal that saw him impeached in January this year after their respective companies were awarded tenders by the former governor despite the apparent conflict of interest.

Njeri, who Waititu was forced to defend at the senate during his trial over claims that she had been found with Sh100 million in her bank account, was awarded a tender to supply tires through her Modiba Management Services.

Wangoko, the director of Beedee Management Services Limited supplied garbage skips while Mumbi who together with a John Mwangi Kimani owns Bins Management Services also supplied tires, first aid kits, water pipes and garbage collection protective equipment.

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