BY ALFA FEMI
Auditor-General Edward Ouko’s recent and ongoing misfortunes are because actors in the Executive want to stop him from revealing of two high-profile scandals that government does not want exposed.
Details have emerged about how senior members of the Executive hatched the plot to impeach the Auditor-General as a result of the “major scandals” he is investigating regarding excesses in government.
Sources close to those behind the push to have Ouko ousted disclose that the idea was to keep the man – who has been at the centre of unearthing massive wastage and rip-off of public resources – busy and distract him from completing the investigations.
“There were fears that the dossier could spell doom for the president and his re-election bid as it would open a scandal for the opposition to use as a basis to discredit government. The idea is to keep him busy defending himself until after the elections,” said the source who wished not to be named.
The fear within the Jubilee government is that once the Auditor-General unearths the new scandals, the opposition, National Super Alliance, will get embers with which to further stoke public anger and gain mileage during the electioneering period, and lend credence on their claim that the UhuRuto government is the most corrupt in Kenya’s history.
Ouko is directly blamed by government hardliners who believe he is the one who fed former Prime Minister Raila Odinga with information on the National Youth Service scandal and the Eurobond saga.
They argue Odinga was so precise in his claims, and that the accuracy by which he released the figures stolen from public coffers was enough prove that someone in the rank of Auditor-General leaked the information to him.
“The schemers do not want a repeat of such, and want everything to stop him (Ouko) from disclosing more damaging information that could cost the President. They believe that once the information is out, it will be difficult to repair the damage,” said the source.
This is why Ouko’s lawyer Otiende Amollo maintains that there is a witch-hunt against the Auditor-General given that the petition filed against him by Emmanuel Mwagambo Mwagonah had not raised any serious questions to warrant admission and a subsequent discussion by the National Assembly.
According to Amollo, a close scrutiny of the papers filed before the Clerk of the assembly revealed that there was not an iota of evidence to implicate the Auditor General for any wrongdoing.
“They (National Assembly Finance and Trade Committee members) failed to observe the Auditor-General had not done any wrong-doing, and even denied him the right to cross-examine his accuser. By admitting the petition and proceeding to consider it, the National Assembly gravely violated the Constitution,” notes Amollo.
He adds that the speed with which the petition was fast-tracked in Parliament was a clear sign of ill motive and malicious nature that some people want the auditor removed from office.
Ouko has also stated that he is being hounded by powerful forces within the government who are not happy with his work. Although he has not directly named the people behind his woes, he mentioned President Kenyatta’s Chief of Staff Joseph Kinyua.
He wondered why he was not invited to a meeting between the parliamentary committee and Kinyua in which the Chief of Staff presented a memorandum on the petition seeking to remove him from office.
“Contrary to expectations of fair administrative action that I should be notified of who is to testify against me, and the right to be given opportunity to examine their testimony, I was not notified of Kinyua’s appearance before the committee or supplied with his submissions,” said Ouko in an interview in March.
Credible sources told the Nairobi Law Monthly that plans to tame Ouko was not a new thing within the inner government and political circles, and that it started when the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission got instructions to investigate him over allegations of abuse of office.
Although the forces knew there was no evidence against the auditor-general, the idea was to destabilize him or force him to resign once the EACC recommends that he be charged for abuse of office.
Interestingly, it was the National Treasury that kicked off the game plan by forwarding an anonymous letter to the EACC containing several claims against the AG. It therefore came as no surprise when the EACC recommended to Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko to prosecute Ouko with abuse of office and wilful failure to comply with procurement rules over a Sh100 million contract for software in his office.
“It was well planned, not only to scare him but also to keep him busy filing his defences so that he has no time to concentrate on investigating the financial scandals. This could at least give the government breathing space before the elections,” said the source.
The plot was however scuttled by the DPP, who admitted that he was under pressure from unnamed forces to charge Ouko. Tobiko went on to clear him of the allegations, saying that there was no evidence to sustain a trial.
The differences in opinion between the EACC and the DPP came to the fore again before the National Assembly Committee on Finance and Trade when EACC’s deputy CEO Michael Mubea insisted that Ouko charged, while Tobiko stood his ground that there was no evidence to back the claims of abuse of office.
The push and pull to censor Ouko escalated to the Judiciary, causing a supremacy battle with parliament and further allegations that Chief Justice David Maraga was being manipulated to transfer a judge who stopped parliament from debating the ouster motion.
The embattled Ouko got a reprieve after the High Court suspended discussion in parliament to remove him from office. Justice Enock Chacha Mwita stopped the National Assembly’s Finance Committee from continuing to discuss the petition against Ouko until determination of a case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah.
The judge also stopped Speaker Justin Muturi and the National Assembly from adopting or discussing any recommendations made by the committee concerning the auditor general.
Omatah too complained in his petition of a concerted campaign by senior members of the executive and the legislature to harass and remove Ouko, and that it was only after the DPP declined to prosecute him that “they” used Mwagambo to file a petition in Parliament.
According to the activist, President Kenyatta is on record ridiculing the auditor general over his audit of the Eurobond saga, while leader of majority in Parliament Aden Duale has accused Ouko of working for political interest, and that they will do everything to remove him from office.
Omtatah argues that parliament has no powers to investigate what had already been determined by the DPP, and that the failure to provide evidence before parliament was a clear motive of blackmailing the auditor-general.
The decision to directly go for Ouko came after the first idea to weaken his powers through a government-sponsored amendment to the Public Audit Act, with the aim of denying him leeway in questioning government expenditure.
The changes established far-reaching consequences, like denying the auditor-general powers to recruit his own staff, and creating an Audit Advisory Committee with powers to control how the auditor operates.
Ouko argued then that the changes were aimed at allowing the executive to control his office by having their own appointees to influence and distort facts of financial expenditure and plunder of public resources.
According to him, the amendments were another ploy to neutralise his office from questioning policy objectives of the national and county governments, which is a restrictive way to cripple the office by unlawfully creating the position of senior deputy auditor-general to be appointed by the Executive. Those who understand how the State Law Office operates know just how much power Attorney-General Githu Muigai’s principal assistant Njee Muturi – he was installed to check the AG’s influence – wields.