Backstabbing, abortive coups, deal-cutting reveal the real fight hasn’t began

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BY TNLM REPORTER

When the chair of the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission Mumo Matemu suspended Michael Mubea, the deputy chief executive, who is charge of Operations, on March 9, those in the know were not surprised by that action.

Insiders and keen observers were in agreement that the suspension was informed by two imperative factors. First, two weeks prior to the suspension, the three commissioners of the commission – Mumo Matemu, Irene Keino and Prof Jane Onsongo – had gone for a retreat at South Coast in Mombasa without a single officer in attendance from the Secretariat. 

It was at this meeting that the commissioners agreed on the need to take full control of the secretariat. The commissioners have been very unhappy that the secretariat is the engine of the agency; without their people at the crucial organ, the commissioners are mere figureheads at EACC. 

In the meeting, the three commissioners resolved that upon their return to Nairobi, they would suspend three key officials. In addition to Mubea, they were to suspend the CEO and secretary to the commission Halakhe Waqo, and the Director for Investigations, Abdi Mohamed, who would be sent home on compulsory leave and thereafter dismissed. It was their strategic rationalisation that Mubea, coming from Central Kenya, was the most powerful, and that once they succeeded in removing him, the other two would be easy to deal with.

Second, Matemu and Keino, who are seen as the two principal forces that drive the commission, wanted to take control of the commission. These two commissioners have been unhappy with their inability to micromanage investigations, or access files to ongoing cases. It is as result of this desire to assume full control of investigation files that they wanted Mubea suspended. He was the one obstacle standing in their way.

The reaction to Mubea’s suspension was swift, and caught both Matemu and Keino unawares. Mubea’s boss Waqo, on the same day, instructed Mubea to ignore the letter of suspension from the chair, and further instructed him to immediately resume his duties. The government also weighed down against Matemu. The chair was asked to take either of two options: Swallow his pride and allow Mubea to resume his duties, or both he and Keino would be kicked out and subsequently charged in court. 

They took the former.

Mubea resumed his duties with his position very much strengthened, and that of Matemu and Keino significantly weakened. As clear testimony of the vulnerability of Matemu and Keino, they pleaded that they should not be charged in court or dismissed through Parliament. Unknown to both of them, the government, through the National Intelligence Service has, over the past two years, been collecting damming evidence against the two commissioners.

According to an intelligence officer who spoke to the Nairobi Law Monthly on condition of anonymity, the evidence they have on the two commissioners “can send them to the gallows”. 

“We have water tight evidence against Matemu and Keino that will shock Kenyans on the rot at Integrity Centre” he offered, almost triumphantly. Why the Nis hasn’t bothered to charge the two with that evidence is a mystery. 

Connection with drug barons

The Nairobi law Monthly has further learnt, reliably so, that a foreign embassy has petitioned the President regarding one of the commissioners, who has links to a powerful drug baron wanted by a number of western countries.

The two letters exchanged between Matemu and Waqo bring to light a number of interesting issues. They demonstrate the lack of strategic thinking at the office of the chairman, and how it was very easy for the secretary of the commission to embarrass, discredit and overrule him in the process. Even though he is a lawyer by profession, he doesn’t act much like it. A simple reading of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission would have shown him that the chairman has no legal powers. Sections 11 and 13 clearly spell out the powers and functions of the commission – firing or taking disciplinary action against employees is the work of the secretary to the commission. 

Second, he exposed his true motive when he ordered Mubea to hand over all sensitive files to his office. It is this order relating to the files that set off the alarm bells. The government had to act fast to protect the individuals mentioned in those files from prosecution. 

Third, the letter exposed a clandestine organ called “Special Inter-agency Committee”. This is the committee that was to investigate the allegations made against Mubea. This clandestine organ, a creation of the commissioners, is made up of certain powerful officers at the CID directorate, the office of Attorney-General and other organs of the state. It is through this agency that deals are cut – what a member calls the “five member politburo” decides which persons should cleared or charged according to how much money is paid.

This latest saga from the EACC has been brewing for some considerable time. There are basically two camps at Integrity Centre, which have been in a gladiatorial contest over the powers of the commission. The first group includes Mumo Matemu, Irene Keino, a high-ranking CID officer, some officers from the office of the DPP and the Attorney-General Githu Muigai. Halakhe, Mubea and other officials in the commission head the second group. The second group, because of its function, is said to be well regarded in government circles and enjoys considerable access and influence in government circles.

According to multiple sources the Nairobi Law Monthly spoke to both inside and outside the commission, Matemu’s suicidal mission to take-over the functions of secretariat is informed by two factors. First, third parties who have influence and leverage over the commissioners are said to be aggravated and unhappy with the impotency of the commissioners. These forces are pushing the commissioners to deliver on their promises. Second, the commission is a very important organ in the fight against corruption. But considering that Matemu is quite toothless, the other commissioners felt that they are missing the action. Their inability to influence major prosecution decisions has literally driven them to the walls according to our sources, hence the attempt to take over all the sensitive files handled by Mubea.

Career-ending allegations

It was not lost to observers and the general public that following the suspension of Mubea and his quick reinstatement, State House released a statement that the President had been served with a petition seeking the removal of the chair. That petition turned out to be an old petition dated September 9, 2014. It is very detailed and raises career-ending allegations against the Matemu. The petition is authored by none other than his vice chair Irene Keino and Professor Jane Onsongo.

In the petition, Kiano and Osongo inform the president that Matemu is unworthy of the office and must be removed immediately. They wrote: “Your Excellency, we know your desire to fight corruption and we assure you, we are together in this. However we are facing serious challenges and we are worried that the man at the helm [Mumo Matemu] has only one agenda which is to make money and bring the institution down.” 

It is very instructive that two commissioners have petitioned the President and explicitly told him that their chairman’s main agenda has nothing to do with ending corruption. Knowing him well, the Keino and Onsongo must be having damming evidence against their own chairman for them to author such a petition. Further, having worked with him in close quarters, their evidence, according to people privy to the goings on, is said to be very credible. Why it took the President over seven months to respond to such grave allegations against Matemu is anybody’s guess.

On March 12, 2015, a very detailed petition that raises weighty issues and that is overloaded with damming factual allegations against Matemu and Keino was lodged with the clerk of the National Assembly. A Nairobi lawyer, Oriaro Geoffrey, is its author. He lists four grounds for the removal of the duo: serious violation of the Constitution, serious violation of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission Act, the Anti Corruption and Economics Crimes Act and the Penal Code, gross misconduct in the performance of his functions as chairman of the commission, and incompetence. 

Out to make money, period

Matemu is accused in the petition of “declaring in public that he had joined the commission to make money and not fight corruption”. Matemu is also accused of interfering with investigation and eavesdropping on sensitive investigations. The petitioner also questions his capacity and leadership skills.

The chairman’s interdiction of Mubea also forms an important part of the petition. The petitioner questions the legal authority of the chairman to interdict the deputy secretary of the commission. He challenges the grounds of the interdiction and accuses Matemu of dishonesty, outright lies, and clear subversion of the law.

Matemu is also accused with destruction of crucial documents. The petition states that he habitually calls for sensitive files, and returns the files minus the crucial documents that link certain individuals to the offence. He, together with the other commissioners, is also accused of being in the payroll of some governors. It is worth of note that despite the many investigation initiated against governors, EACC not informed Kenyans of the progress made in those cases, or why no tangible evidence has been unearthed.

Oriaro also makes grave allegations against Keino. He cites similar grounds as Matemu’s, the difference being that the allegations against her are laden with facts which, on face value, should make her resign even before the allegations are interrogated by Parliament. 

Her relationship with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) raises a number of profound and troubling issues. It is not lost to many Kenyans that historically NSSF has always been the cash cow for political elites, and the commissioner has it as one its main clients in terms of investigations. 

Keino is accused of doing business with NSSF through a company called Lulu East Africa. Lulu is engaged in lucrative deal with NSSF, through which she is making millions. Lulu runs the NSSF parking lot area opposite Nyayo House, and it is estimated that it makes Sh1 million per day. 

The vice chair is also associated with another company called Eco Plant, which was awarded the lucrative Tassia II Housing project – it was contracted to carry out an environmental assessment study, which involves title sub divisions and planning, among other briefs.

The petitions have already been tabled in the National Assembly, and Speaker Justin Muturi has forwarded them to the legal affairs committee headed by Samuel Chepkonga, the MP for Ainamoi. The hearing of the petition by the committee is slated to begin soon.

Already lobbying the members of the Committee has started in earnest. Immediately the petition was filed, Keino met Deputy President William Ruto to find a way of evading Parliament’s vetting, which could rob her of her job. In so doing, she has followed the script written by Gladys Shollei, when she told the DP that her predicament was the work of pastoralists from Northern Kenya who want to take over the EACC. She has further informed the DP that there is a scheme to remove the Kalenjin from powerful offices in the country.

Keen public interest

According to our Sources, the DP was non-committal. In the internal dynamics of the Kalenjin community, Keino is very close to Baringo senator Gideon Moi, who is the Ruto’s political nemesis. 

The Commission has also been variously used to do a “political hatchet programme” against the DP.

Matemu has no influential tribesmen who can lobby for him in both the committee and the full parliament. But he has a deep and historic association with individuals with very deep pockets in his corner. It is these same individuals who are believed to have bribed members of the full house in order to overturn the report of the parliamentary committee that initially rejected his nomination.

 

Parliament is under siege over corruption allegations. Kenyans have seen one committee after another accused of and engulfed by corruption allegations. The powerful Public Accounts Committee has been suspended over graft allegations. As a result, how the legal affairs committee treats this petition will be watched very carefully. If the usual shenanigans of buying votes with dirty cash become the norm, then Parliament will be great trouble. If on the other hand the process is made to be fair and transparent, then parliament will redeem itself in the eyes of the public. Either way, Kenyans are watching very keenly what happens next.

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