, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – Two embattled senior officials at the Prime Ministers office have finally bowed to public pressure and resigned over the multi billion shillings maize scandal.
In brief statements sent to media houses, Permanent Secretary Mohamed Isahakia and the Chief of Staff Caroli Omondi said they had resigned to allow for investigations.
"I wish to inform the public at large that I have today decided to temporarily step aside from my position as PS in the PM\’s office to facilitate due process of law in respect of the final PricewaterhouseCoopers report," Mr Isahakia said.
Mr Omondi on his part said his decision was aimed at giving the Prime Minister a free hand to deal decisively with the scandal.
"I have taken this decision notwithstanding the fact that PricewaterhouseCoopers, having now seen the relevant documentary proof have confirmed that I acted on the authority of the Cabinet," he said.
The move comes hot on the heels of sustained pressure from the civil society and Kenyans for the PM and his aides and other government officials implicated in graft to step down.
Earlier, Former head of protocol at the PM’s office Tony Gachoka claimed that Prime Minister Raila Odinga knew of the maize scandal in 2008 before it was brought to the public domain but chose not to act.
He said that while still working for the PM, he received information on the scandal and reported the issue to Mr Odinga.
Mr Gachoka claimed that he was instead punished by Mr Isahakia for the action and later chose to resign.
“He new that I new about the scandal before, and therefore if he is sincere, he is my friend, I have nothing personal about him, when it comes to corruption of billions of shillings integrity require that the truth be told,” he said.
The scam was reported in 2008 when the government initiated the subsidised maize scheme to mitigate hunger that had ravaged over 10 million Kenyans. However the program was dogged with corruption allegations and inefficiencies.
The report has implicated at least three Permanent Secretaries for either abdicating duty or influencing maize allocations at the National Cereals and Produce Board. Five top officials of the National Cereals and Produce Board that was driving the project are named key culpable suspects in the scam.
The damning report released by the PriceWaterhouseCoopers at the PM’s meeting show how top officers at the NCPB sidestepped procedures and allocated thousands of bags of maize to companies unprocedurally.
PWC’s report shows evidence of briefcase traders who acted as go between with millers and raked millions of shillings.
Mr Odinga stepped up the anti-graft last week at a government meeting when he publicly requested the President to ask Education Minister Sam Ongeri and his Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi to step aside as investigations proceed over the loss of over Sh100 million meant for the free primary education programme.
On Wednesday a section of MPs allied to the Party of National Unity challenged the Premier to lead by example and step aside since “he had failed to effectively co-ordinate his officers and the ministries.”
But the PM said in his defence: “This is not a question of ODM or PNU. This is a coalition government and we are working together and we are very serious to address this matter.”
A section of Politicians and the civil society have accused the Premier of applying double standards by softening his stance when scandals hit his own office and Ministries headed by Ministers from his Orange Democratic Movement.