, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – Prime Minister appeared to be backtracking on his strong stance that public officers implicated in corruption must step aside to allow investigations, after he declined to act against officers in his ministry mentioned in the maize scandal.
Mr Odinga who has been insistent that public officers implicated in corruption must step aside, instead appealed for more time to allow a technical committee evaluate the damning report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers before the “government could act.”
Pushed by journalists to say who would sit in the committee and when the government would act on the report the evidently snappy PM said:
“Do not push me to say when. I said we are going to respond and we will do that in good time!” Give us time to look at this voluminous report and let it be done professionally,” he said,” and added “Let us not be pushed to rush this because the media want some blood spilt.”
Mr Odinga was responding to media queries after PwC presented a summary of the report to the PM, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and journalists at meeting held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.
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.
The Premier turned the heat on private companies that are mentioned to have bribed their way into the allocations and others who participated in ‘trading’ maize allocations that they too would be pursued.
“If they are capable they must also face the music, definitely,” he asserted.
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.