NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 5 – Two senior police officers who appeared before the vetting panel were hard pressed to explain why they had excluded banking records for their wives.
Kenya Airports Authority General Manager in charge of safety and security Eric Kiraithe and Francis Njiru of the CID who are among over 30 officers vetted, were tasked to explain why they ignored the requirement.
Financial probity being one of the vetting standards, the panel pursued them requiring an explanation. Kiraithe was categorical that he did not want to discuss ‘domestic issues’ in the media.
Commissioner Mohammed Murshid who was leading the panel even asked him “Are you familiar with the declaration of income and asset and what it aims? Does it include details about spouses?”
Ironically he was familiar with the declaration and its aim. “I am familiar with the declaration of income and asset and its aim is to test integrity.”
“I am not comfortable discussing domestic issues in the media,” he said. “I have been married for two decades and I have never seen it (wife’s bank statement) and I don’t intend to start doing so.”
He however explained that his wife was willing to give the details, but added; “each family has its own standard.”
Murshid posed, “So we need to apply different standards to different people depending on the standard of their family and not of the public officers?”
Kiraithe however defended his argument saying, “chairman you want to get into domestic issues which I will be uncomfortable discussing on camera. My wife is an independent person and I respect her independence.”
Asked why he did not provide his wife’s bank statement, Njiru said: “My wife doesn’t work. She has only animals with her, she grows her maize…and I don’t know how she gets her money.”
He said even after she asked for her statement, “she did not give it and I had asked her.”
Murshid consistently asked whether his wife had a bank account, but Njiru said he was not sure.
He said his wife had only three cows besides farming. “I don’t know what she has, the coffee (plantation) is mine but I don’t care about her bananas and the maize.”
Kiraithe was also put to task to explain the role he played when he served as the spokesman of police to enhance public-police relationships.
While admitting the relations are still poor, he said professionalism within the service will enhance the connection.
“Legitimacy of a police service like any other public service must come from the public,” he said while explaining instances during his tenure that either promoted the service or painted it in bad light.
He attributed this to lack of consistency of what is being relayed to the public.
One of the incidents, he said was a shooting incidence in Kisumu where, “some people in this country… and I think that is behind us, wanted to re-position it as something else to incite something else and they said a police constable known as Njeru did the shooting.”
He said after investigation, the implication of the constable was manipulation of facts which he explained in public.
“Unless the service delivery level changes in a revolutionary way, and I hope the commission is really on this matter, we have a long way to go; because we really don’t have a lot of trust in a cook who is not putting meals on the table,” he pointed out.
To avert a fire outbreak like the one which occurred at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport which happened under his watch he said, “it was a huge lesson…I have never felt so helpless in my life. I was there on time (but) I could not do anything.”
Going forward, he said the country needs to have a well structured crisis management department. He said the country also needs to invest more in its level of preparedness in case of similar or other emergencies.
In his opening statement, Kiraithe had said he was unhappy how previous vetting was covered saying he didn’t expect to find journalists because, “I thought it is very necessary I have a conversation with the commission as my employer.”
“The last time I appeared before you in an interview as a commissioner of police, I left very unhappy and I have not been happy to date… a lot of malicious false information was published against me,” he said.