- US News
- International News
- Science and Tech
- Featured Columns
Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
KENYA CONFIDENTIAL investigations team –
Nairobi, June 1, 2014
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero is a man under siege and whose tenure at City Hall is hanging on a thin thread as he dangles precariously in uncertainty of very unfamiliar political landscape. May 31, 2014 afternoon provided his darkest hour in life.
The flamboyant former Mumias Sugar Company chief executive was elected Nairobi governor on a ticket of change in an institution clogged in a quagmire of corruption, inefficiency and lethargic service delivery. Nairobi voters thought he represented futuristic lifestyle as depicted in “The Jetsons” TV cartoon series against Ferdinard Wititu’s Stone Age way of life cartoon series of “The Flintstones”.
Those who expected change in the first year of Kidero in City Hall are still groping in a dark tunnel without any signs of light at the end of it. He entered the Governor’s office with Lake Victoria pomp and grandeur and ended 2013 with the opulence of the Governor’s Ball, borrowed from Barack Obama’s land, in place of the traditional Mayor’s Christmas Tree charity event. That way he sent a strong message to the less fortunate in the City society that his would be a government for the well-to-do who-is-who in political and commercial life of the city he invited to the Ball – the first and probably the last.
He and his handlers turned down a proposal to dedicate the 2013 Governor’s Christmas Tree fund raising to a Nairobi County Road Safety Project even after the Governor surviving death in a road accident in Kisii as he headed to Nyanza to conduct harambees that have set him against fellow Orange Democratic Party (ODM) Luo politicians and their leader Raila Amolo Odinga.
Why Kidero preferred a few hours of merry-making and rubbing shoulders with political and commercial elite instead of a long-term life-saving project is not clear. What is clear is that Kidero and his handlers, backed by some conceited corrupt chief officers, are conducting Nairobi County Government business from an Ivory Tower vantage view. Mounting discontent is sweeping through County establishments following replacement of senior professional staff with hand-picked ethnic favourites.
Kidero’s hands-off approach to a political office, the trust he has placed on his former Mumias Sugar Company staff he moved with into City Hall coupled with his chief officers, determined to transform him into a talk-show Governor, have now landed him in a caged siege that threatens his continued stay as Nairobi Governor. Indeed, his opportunity to continue serving as the capital city Governor now hangs purely on the Supreme Court, which if it rules that Nairobi residents conduct a fresh gubernatorial election, Kidero can very well kiss bye bye the Governor’s office. The huge Luo-dominated Uhuru Park crowds left no doubt that they are fed up with Kidero who they booed and jeered as he stood visibly dumfounded and flabbergasted at Raila‘s home coming receiption. Eastlands residents are mobilizing for the by-election to express their anger with the Governor and were well represented at Uhuru Park.
The man is under siege from the by-election threat now before the Supreme Court and ODM rejection as demonstrated at Uhuru Park during Raila’s welcome meeting where fellow CORD/ODM Nairobi voters booed, jeered and sopped him from addressing thousands of them. Kidero has also to deal with the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) investigations into corruption in his government and key officers and Nairobi residents growing discontent over impunity by his chief officers. The Eastlands residents in sprawling Buru Buru, Uhuru, Harambee and other neighbouring estates cannot understand why the Governor has been unable to resolve a small issue of access road blockage by illegal tenants in his County government rental Pink Court.
The residents have petitioned the Nairobi County Assembly to probe the corrupt forces that have allowed the illegal tenants to not only block the access road, but to construct illegal extensions and iron sheet hovels that pose health, fire and security threats not only to residents but the country as a whole should they be used as save havens by terrorists, if they seek refuge in an estate hard to suspect that it can host terrorists. The illegal tenants also plan to turn the Pink Court into a hard drugs supermarket in Eastlands once they seal it out.
Among the officers the residents are complaining about is the Planning and Housing Chief Officer Mrs Rose Mwema, who has failed to resolve or respond to their complaints after recommendations by Nairobi Public Forum meetings to reopen the access road. They read impunity and corruption in the matter and have asked the anti-corruption commission to probe the possible involvement of County officers. Mwema is also under investigation for irregular award of lease of City Park Green Bowling facility.
Mrs Mwema has also refused to respond to complaints over the access road closure by County Government-own primary schools, hospitals, churches and private investors who invested millions of shillings in educational facilities now negatively affected by the closure. School children are forced to take a 4-kilometre detour through hostile open air jua kali garages along congested Rabai Road or a mud-clogged open field where they are robbed of their text books and shoes by chokoras. Early this year two school children escaped death narrowly when an overlapping matatu hit them.
Mwema gave authority (using Governor’s office letterhead) to the illegal tenants to construct a “barbed wire fence with a gate” last November for three months to be removed on February 11, 2014. They totally blocked the access road with iron sheets without providing for a pedestrian gate and it still stands in violation of the Planning Department’s own letter that it be removed in February. Mwema has failed to tell residents what is special with the illegal tenants because she ignored their letter to erect a see-though gate but responded within 24 hours allowing three illegal tenants to put up a “temporary fence” she knew would not be removed because, she said, they threatened to beat her up. The authority lacked requisite legal and conveyance due diligence report – that is why it was camouflaged as “temporary”.
The residents cannot understand why Governor Kidero allows such impunity and threats to billions of shillings worth of County assets posed by illegal tenants in Pink Court. They also cannot fathom why he has refused to tour the County government estate to see for himself the illegal extensions and the threats they pose – besides degrading the otherwise fashionable estate – yet he has time for political tourism forays and Harambee meetings in far-flung Nyanza – burning Nairobi County Government fuel with chase cars. They also cannot understand who will be held responsible if innocent school children are killed along the congested Rabai Road or defiled in the open field because they go to school as early as 6.00 a.m. – instead of passing through the safe-estate-access environment as envisaged in the County estates building code.
The residents have written several letters to Governor Kidero, which he passes over to his executive committee member Tom Odongo, who in turn passes them to a bottomless pit in Mrs Mwema office, who does not find it worth her time to respond to even the County’s own Primary Schools let alone all other stakeholders complaints as is required of public participation in governance under the New Constitution. Subjecting young innocent school children to the danger of losing their lives as they struggle to and from school is a serious violation of the Children’s Protection Act 2010 by senior County officers who are expected to be responsible parents – yet they are subjecting the poor souls to psychological torture with life-long trauma. It is also a Human Rights violation!
Details pointing to blatant flouting of the procurement procedures outlined by the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2007 have also emerged on how the controversial lease of Bowling Green Hotel at City Park was extended to a consortium of private investors including officials at City Hall. A letter dated July 5, 2013 reference number ICS/LWN/279/SA/013 and which was drawn by Nairobi County Secretary Lilian Ndegwa authorized the lease of the controversial public property to a consortium of investors identified as Safari Social Club without competitive bidding.
“Mary Githara and Nancy Kiruri had undisclosed interest. This conduct therefore amounts to bid rigging contrary to Section 44 of Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act for their participating in awarding of tenders where fellow party members had interest. They also have committed an offense of conflict of interest,” part of the report reads.
The process further overlooked valuation, a mandatory process that must be undertaken to ensure the monthly rent charges is comparable to others in the area. Also, the largely silent transaction lacked requisite legal and conveyance due diligence report. According to the PPOA regulations, it is a requirement the process must be subjected through competitive bidding.
Through a letter reference No CPD/ENF/001711/209/6559 dated October 4, 2013, the office of the Director of Planning, Mwema, authorized renovations by the management of Safari Social Club on the controversial property. Ndegwa, in her letter clearly indicates she was acting on instructions and advice from the planning director, Mwema. However, no valuation had been carried out.
Kidero’s Government is further facing investigation by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) over alleged prime land scam. The land in question is the Eastleigh open air market, which was a subject of controversy about five years ago, following attempts to transform it from public ownership to private property. The accusation against Governor Kidero’s administration is that the more than an acre piece of land has changed ownership, despite efforts by the Ministry of Lands and the former Nairobi City Council to protect it from being lost to private ownership.
The change of user is confirmed by a letter by the Nairobi County Government legal secretary Karisa Iha. Karisa’s letter addressed to Ahmednasir Abdikadir and Company advocates and which reads in part: “Your letter of February 14th addressed to H E the Governor on the above subject (LR No.36.VII/1037 ORIGINAL 619/33) has been placed in my hands to reply thereto as follows: That the records held by the county and the latest search confirm that your clients are the registered and ratable owners of the above property…the county has no objection to your clients taking vacant possession of the premise subject to them discharging the court orders.”
A letter from EACC chairman, shows that the commission took up the matter after it was brought to its attention by a law firm representing a company that went into a private public partnership with the then Nairobi City Council. The letter reads in part, “This commission has noted the report contained in your letter regarding unlawful handling of public land. Irregular allocation into private proprietorship and occupation of a public utility land is a matter we must take seriously.”
The letter proceeds to say, “Action will be taken on your report and the matter will be inquired into…Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) will be in touch with you in that regard.”
The letter, dated May 13, and referenced ‘Fraudulent Transaction involving LR NO. 36/VII/1037 is addressed to Gitau Gikonyo and Company Advocates who, apparently, was the whistleblower. However, Karisa told the media that the County government had not received any communication from EACC in regard to the land in question. “We have not received any letter from EACC in the regard,” he said.
The controversy over the land started in 2008, when the Nairobi City Council advertised and awarded a public private partnership deal to a private contractor, Golden Lime International Limited to develop the property. This followed request by Council Social Services and Housing committee for submission of proposals for redevelopment of the said property. Only two companies bid for this job, Golden Lime International Limited and Blue Seal Shopping Mall Limited.
Illegal shacks in Buru Buru County estate Pink Court
A full council meeting would follow on November 18, 2008, and essentially resolved that the redevelopment deal be awarded to Golden Lime International Limited. However, the competitor, Blue Seal Shopping Mall unsuccessfully challenged the process of award of the construction works to a rival company in the High Court. The High Court decision has now been challenged in the Court of Appeal.
The court has since ordered stay of the status quo, meaning that the county government cannot proceed to execute the private public partnership neither can the public utility property transform to private ownership. However, according to Gitau Gikonyo and Company Advocates compliant to the EACC, irrespective of the court order restraining all the parties involved from further action on the land, the country government has proceeded to approve construction plans for a different company.
One of the directors of Golden Lime International Limited, Mohamud Sheikh Hussein has since filed a sworn affidavit raising the above matter. The affidavit reads in part, “In total disregard of the subsisting status quo orders and the injunction issued by the court of appeal, the first defendant has colluded with the 2nd defendant and purported to approve building plans for redevelopment of the suit property illegally and fraudulently submitted to the 1st defendant by the 2nd defendant.”
The county government initially defended the plot to be a public property. In a letter dated April 9, the county government wrote to Hassan N Lakicha and company advocates saying, “As you are aware, there has been an order of maintenance of status quo in this matter which extends to the agreement. The county has therefore not cancelled the agreement.”
Mohamud Sheikh Hussein in his affidavit.; “In any case, if the second defendant knew or believed the suit property to be validly registered in their names, Mr Farah Mohammed Barrow through Blue Sea Shopping Mall Limited would not have applied to the 1st Defendant to develop what he knew and or believed was his own property,”
On February 15, 2007, M N Ngethe, then director of legal affairs in the Nairobi City Council, raised the matter of the market with the Chief Lands Registrar in a letter referenced LR NO 36/VII/1037 saying: “The above property is a market. It’s a public utility. Information reaching this office is that lease has been issued and the same was fraudulently obtained and the same should be revoked immediately,” she said.
Further to the scandalous transactions, Governor Kidero is yet to act on fictitious payment scam at City Hall following a damning report that recommended the surcharging and prosecution of City Hall officials involved in fictitious payments and irregular procurement which resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of shillings.
Investigations had shown that close to 20 officials of the county government involved in tendering and inspections had caused the losses by either overpricing goods or making payments for nonexistent goods procured through manipulated minutes. Vide an investigation report submitted to Kidero dated May 12 this year, reference number IIA/2/4/5/1/VOL.1/101/0014, the report recommended for prosecution of officials involved in flawed procurement involving Mah Enterprises and Shekeltech Enterprises.
So far, only five staff members Nancy Kiruri (Director of Budget and Expenditure) David Wambugu (Accounts), Mary Githara (Procurement), Charity Muringo (Procurement) and Milka Wanjiku have been interdicted. The goods were said to have been irregularly procured from companies owned by close relatives of senior City Hall employees.
The tenders involving Shekeltech Enterprises and Mah Enterprises have been profiled as fraudulent. Furthermore, plastic chairs were procured irregularly through fictitious minutes without approval vide contract No. CCN/CE/RT/466/2012-2013 that led to the loss of over Ksh1.5million.
The reports of the controversial payments come against the backdrop of raging discontent among contractors because of non-payment of millions of shillings for supplied goods and services. There is intense lobbying among members of the Nairobi County Assembly in what is believed to be a scheme to “moderate” any eventuality.
Adding fuel to the fire burning Kidero’s tenue as Nairobi Governor, Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko has petitioned Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to fully investigate financial misappropriation including financial flaws highlighted by the auditor general report. “In line with the public finance act accountability of the tax payers money is mandatory. The commission should not only investigate the small fish but also top officials involved in those scam.” Sonko says. The Senator jas sevrally warned Kidero that Nairobi County is not Mumias Sugar Company.
Kidero has unresolved issues over Mumias sale of farmers land on which the last Parliament recommended further investigations and possible prosecution. There are reports of gross violations of procurement provisions and imports and sale of duty free sugar using Mumias that date back to Kidero‘s tenure that are likely revisit him sooner than latter the moment he is thrown out of the Governor’s office.
The County Assembly provides an oversight role to the executive especially where it concerns expenditure of public finances. In March this year, the media revealed a fraudulent lease agreement awarded through single sourcing in breach of procurement procedures. The matter is under investigations by the Ethics Anti Corruption Commission. The County Assembly has been accused of apparent reluctance to probe the matter despite ruling by Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Alex Magelo three weeks ago that an ad hoc committee be formed to investigate the matter. No motion has, however, been tabled to establish the committee.
High ranking officials are also under probe over probable abuse of office. An audit report by the Office of the Auditor General Edward Ouko profiled irregular land transactions as one of the major ills affecting the Nairobi County Government. In his report, Ouko notes that prior to the transition period various parcels of land belonging to the county were irregularly allocated to private developers. “Some of the private developers have since constructed permanent structures while others have demolished properties previously owned by the defunct council,” its says.