The rivalries in the top management of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission that could severely compromise the work of the key agency in the fight against graft Tuesday played out in the open.
A power struggle between commission chairman Mumo Matemu and chief executive officer Halakhe Waqo erupted after the later countermanded the chairman’s decision to suspend the deputy CEO for technical services, Mr Michael Mubea.
At play was the tug of war over which wing of the EACC — the commissioners or the secretariat staff — is responsible for day to day running of the agency.
The fall-out comes just as the EACC launched one of its most high-profile prosecutions targeting key suspects in the decades-old Anglo Leasing scandal.
The EACC secretariat is playing the key role in the investigation and prosecution of key figures in the scandal, and progress could be severely hampered if staff are tied down in internal wrangles.
This comes in the backdrop of allegations that key officers have been secretly meeting and securing favours from institution and individuals under investigation.
The in-fighting seems to go back to September last year when two of the three commissioners, Jane Onsongo and Irene Keino, wrote to President Kenyatta seeking the removal of Mr Matemu on grounds of incompetence and integrity issues.
In January, the President delivered pointed public message to the commission and other agencies to step up the fight against corruption.
It is not clear whether the warning was motivated by the letter from the two commissioners accusing their chairman of poor leadership, overriding the CEO, failure to consult, using MPs to fight the commission and employing divide and rule tactics to lead.
SECRETLY MEETING SUSPECTS
They claimed that Mr Matemu was secretly meeting Anglo Leasing suspects. “The commission is currently investigating Anglo Leasing contracts and the entire secretariat is focused on this. We are however disappointed to inform you that the chairperson is secretly engaged in meeting with the architect, Mr (Deepak) Kamani,” they wrote to the President.
However, Prof Onsongo and Ms Keino Tuesday seemed to have had a change of heart as they sought to back-pedal on their own accusations against Mr Matemu, pleading they were “misguided” when signing the September 2014 letter.
“It was a misunderstanding between the commissioners. The contents of the letter was the position then, but we have since resolved the matter and are currently working together,” Ms Keino said.
Prof Onsongo said the commission was working together in delivering its mandate, instead accusing Mr Mubea of hatching a plot to cripple the commission.
“Yes, there were issues but were resolved and the commission is working together,” Prof Onsongo said.
According to Mr Matemu, the commission is working as a team and diversionary tactics could not bring them down.
But State House Tuesday said it received a petition from the public, questioning the management of the EACC. Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said the petition related to the EACC’s delays in bringing the corrupt to book, but refused to give the identity of the petitioners.
“There is a petition filed against the leadership of the EACC. It is undergoing verification but I am not going to discuss the details of that petition,” he told reporters at State House.
But Mr Esipisu argued that the current events at Integrity House were matters only the commission can explain. “The drama at the EACC is an internal matter that the President wouldn’t comment on,’’ he said.
He defended the government’s determination to fight corruption despite frequent reports of new scandals.
“The Presidency is not an investigating agency. Our work (through the whistle-blowing website) is to forward any information we receive to the EACC. What they do with it is their responsibility. It is upon them,” he said.
SOURCE OF TROUBLE
The scandals which appear to be brewing trouble at the EACC include the Anglo Leasing scandal, the Karen land saga, the Electoral Commission “chicken” scandal, investigations into embezzlement of funds at Nairobi City Hall and the corruption allegations at the Geothermal Development Corporation (GDC).
Others are the ownership issues surrounding Integrity Centre which houses the commission and the multi-billion NSSF Tassia Housing project.
The under-currents at the commission reached boiling point on Monday when Mr Matemu suspended Mr Mubea for 30 days, citing investigations touching on integrity in the discharge of his duties. Sources said the issues at stake were the delay in conclusion of investigations which needed the deputy CEO’s approval.
“Intelligence reaching the commission has strongly suggested that there are integrity challenges surrounding the discharge of your duties as deputy secretary, technical services. Some of these challenges have resulted in ridicule to the commission and negative media publicity hence tainting its image,” he said in the letter seen by the Nation. He said that Mr Mubea will be investigated by a special inter-agency committee to be appointed.
Mr Mubea acknowledged receiving the letter “under protest”.
Mr Matemu said while on suspension, the deputy CEO will not have access to his office, will earn half a salary and have his email accounts and communications systems suspended. He ordered Mr Mubea to “hand over any matters/files that you are currently handling to the chairperson”.
But Law Society of Kenya Council member Denis Mosota argued that Mr Matemu had no powers to hire or fire members of the secretariat.
“What the chairman did is an outright breach of the Act. He has no express or implied power to fire the commission’s DCE. His powers are broadly policy and leadership issues,” the city lawyer said.
The suspension immediately drew the ire of CEO Waqo.