, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – Given all the cameras and Members of Parliament who were crammed into the meeting room, it was clear that someone of no small consequence was expected.
The curiosity in this instance was former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru who by her tone of voice and answers made it clear that she was not going to take the hit for another scam without a fight.
The scam in question being the theft of Sh180 million from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund which she had been responsible for when she was at the helm of the Devolution docket.
Her prepared statement was simple: “I had no idea what was going on at the Fund until two weeks before I stepped down and as you recall, I was already dealing with other issues at the time.”
Those other issues in question being the theft of Sh791 million and attempted theft of Sh695 million from another institution ‘under her watch’ – the National Youth Service.
But as the MPs clamoured to take her to task for the “arrogant” statement, Waiguru made it clear she had come ready to rumble.
“What did you want me to do? The Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission had already been called in so I asked for a formal brief on the matter by requesting an administrative report. If I did any more than that I’d still be sitting here but the accusation would be interfering with investigations.”
She might not have been ready to relent but neither would the MPs, “we have gone to school,” the leader of the pack, Eldas MP Adan Keynan, informed her and after constant badgering, she eventually got to the heart of her hesitance to come out as publicly on the youth fund scam as she had the NYS. “I had already been burnt. As a whistleblower I was lumped in with the suspects and I learnt my lesson well.”
Besides, she said, the very same person who faulted her request for an administrative report before the committee only days earlier – her former Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti – should have caught the suspicious activity sooner as a member of the youth fund board.
“This is definitely not the same Anne who was before us as CS. Your answers are much more guarded. Must be because of your transition into politics,” a member of the National Assembly Public Investments Committee commented in jest.
But the confrontation didn’t end there; another heated debate ensued when the committee sought to know if she had appointed to the youth fund board one Michael Wamae who is under investigation for a Sh147 million contract entered into with the NYS.
“I will not answer that,” she said. “Unless we’re doing this for the media so the headlines tomorrow can read ‘Waiguru linked to Youth Fund scam’.”
She did however later cede that she had indeed appointed Wamae as part of the board that came into office in May of 2014.
A board which she sought to exempt from blame for the stolen Sh180 million saying that the Chairman Bruce Odhiambo, who was the President’s appointee, had already confessed to making suspended CEO Catherine Namuye the sole signatory to the account from which the monies were withdrawn.
“The chair actually did confess. When he was asked did you authorise he said yes I did. He did not say the board did.”
While the session might have started out combative, the tension was diffused when the committee allowed Waiguru a few minutes on the soapbox to again proclaim her innocence and then there was laughter all round.