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Cartels Maintain Grip Of City Hall

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When President Uhuru Kenyatta established the Nairobi Metropolitan Services in March last year, he tasked Major General Mohamed Badi and his team with dismantling cartels in Nairobi County and ending corruption.

The President had been alarmed by runaway corruption at City Hall, that had made service delivery impossible.

He said the cartels had a vice-like grip on the county government services, from garbage collection to parking, water supply and issuance of permits.

At the time, Governor Mike Sonko was facing a Sh357 million corruption charge, which eventually saw him barred from accessing his City Hall office.

Several corruption-related investigation cases had also been opened by different investigative agencies, ranging from multi-million garbage tender awards to the multi-billion stadiums construction saga.

However, after a short lull following the impeachment of Mr Sonko in December last year, with transition of power from Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Benson Mutura to Deputy Governor Ann Kananu, the cartels are back, this time bolder and more ferocious.

Payments to lawyers, utilisation of Covid-19 funds, AAR-City Hall staff medical scheme and Covid-19 relief programme are just but some of the brewing scandals that could yet again sink the city county back to its old ways.

Nairobi County Assembly Minority Chief Whip Peter Imwatok, who appeared to be at the forefront of the transition at City Hall, even at times directing Ms Kananu during press briefings, has in the past weeks turned into a whistleblower, lifting the lid on the happenings at City Hall.

The first was in a letter dated April 27, 2021, where the Makongeni MCA wrote to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate “suspicious and skewed” payments to 13 law firms by the Ms Kananu-led administration.

In the letter, Mr Imwatok alleges that more than Sh410 million was irregularly paid to the law firms with no information on the cases handled.

The second-term county legislator claimed the payments were made between February 9 and March 30, 2021.

In January, the EACC had written to City Hall about investigation of 25 law firms over an alleged payment of Sh500 million-worth of legal fees to the law firms with the anti-graft agency following specific case files handled by the law firms between 2013 and 2020, including details of the cases, letters of instructions and contract agreements.

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“It has come to our attention that even before the investigations with regards to this matter commenced, if ever they did, the Nairobi City County proceeded to pay the lawyers monies amounting to over Sh410 million,” read in part the letter.

But before all that could settle, another bombshell was dropped. Mr Imwatok wrote to the EACC and the DPP, asking them to investigate a payment of Sh275 million to suppliers.

He claimed that some seven companies, acting as “proxies to MCAs or members of county staff” undertook works or supplies in the Environment Department and/or supplied food as part of the Nairobi County Covid-19 feeding programme.

The ODM representative claimed that the county government had lined up the companies for payment for the services yet there is “no food that was ever supplied to the county or distributed to anyone”.

“It is absurd that taxpayer’s money amounting to Sh275 million shall be paid to companies belonging to MCAs or their proxies for either services and/or goods that were never supplied,” said Mr Imwatok in a letter dated April 26.

The Sh84 million feeding programme was to benefit 127,500 most vulnerable people in Nairobi’s informal settlements with foodstuff such as maize and wheat flour, sugar, rice, loaves of bread and powdered milk. Other items include blankets, sanitary towels and basins distributed to cushion them against the negative effects of the pandemic.

The programme was to run for three months between April and June 2021, with distribution done every week across Nairobi’s 17 sub-counties.

According to documents, the seven companies were given contracts worth between Sh3 million and Sh22 million to supply the items.

Procurement process

However, most MCAs have said their wards are yet to get any supplies, while those who were fortunate to receive the items said the package was not more than 50 bags.

“I not only have the contract but the invoice, the payment transaction, the CR12 of the companies and I have forwarded all to EACC. I am questioning the procurement process and I have evidence of procurement officers saying the processes were done without their consent,” said Mr Imwatok.

Then there is the controversial Sh1.7 billion AAR Insurance Kenya medical contract for City Hall staff, which has also been thrust in the spotlight.

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Some MCAs have called for investigations into the deal, alleging that it has been turned into a cash cow by certain county officers, instead of benefiting the employees.

Waithaka MCA Antony Kiragu last month called on EACC and DCI to investigate the deal, claiming some county officials have been making money from the AAR-City Hall deal, with payments being staggered by the county government to give the individuals a platform to do business with the funds.

“The reason the payments are being done in phases is that people want to do business with AAR money. The officers want kickback from AAR,” charged Mr Kiragu.

Mr Kiragu’s assertions came hot on the heels of an announcement by Nairobi County Assembly Majority Leader Abdi Guyo that he will bring a motion to form an ad-hoc committee to look into the AAR-City Hall medical scheme.

The Matopeni MCA said the committee’s brief will be to investigate how AAR was awarded the tender, what services they are providing to staff and whether there is value for money.

But that is not all. Maj-Gen Badi and Ms Kananu have also been summoned by Senate to respond to “cross-cutting issues” involving the NMS and City Hall over the expenditure of Covid-19 funds.

The summons came after a damning report by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu on the utilisation of Covid-19 funds by counties, which fingered NMS for a number of irregularities involving Sh294.38 million received from the national government in June 2020.

Some of the irregularities involved single-sourcing of a Sh64.9 million tender for design and maintenance of a makeshift isolation centre, irregular cash withdrawal of Sh32 million from a KCB account for facilitation of health workers and Sh120 million payment to frontline health workers without a budget.

The auditor could also not establish the whereabouts of some Sh182.07 million donated by the Danish International Development Agency and the county’s own contribution to boosting the war against Covid-19.

Mr Imwatok now claims that cartels are back at City Hall in full swing, taking advantage of the vulnerability of Ms Kananu “who is seemingly out of touch with the reality of being an acting governor”.

“The county is opaque and nobody is in charge. It is everyone for him or herself,” he said.

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Attempts to get a comment from Ms Kananu have been futile as she did not respond to our messages. She also did not return our phone calls as she had promised.

A nasty falling out between Jubilee and Orange MCAs has been brewing following the revelations, with Mr Imwatok now under siege as some ward representatives from his own party begin collecting signatures to oust him as Minority Whip.

He is accused of using the party’s name in bad light at the county government to advance his selfish interests, allegations, which he denied.

“I will not be cowed from exposing corruption at the county government. Let the masters of corruption be prepared to face me to death. I am ready for the challenge as this is not the first time I am facing such threats,” he said.

The current power tussle has seen Jubilee MCAs instigate the removal of Public Accounts Committee chairperson Wilfred Odalo of ODM, with 15 MCAs — three from ODM and 12 from Jubilee — appending their signatures.

But in retaliation, the Raila Odinga-led party withdrew its membership of the watchdog committee, citing intimidation and coercion of members into signing the removal of Mr Odalo as the chairperson.

The three MCAs who supported the removal of Mr Odalo — Jared Okode, Clarence Munga and Lawrence Otieno — have also been withdrawn from the committees they serve in.

However, Mr Guyo hit back, saying the committee will continue operating as long as it has a quorum.

He added that a chairperson of any committee serves at the pleasure of members and once that confidence is lost, the chair cannot force themselves on the members.

“It is not Jubilee’s business if they (ODM) decided to pull out. The chair has been accused of gross misconduct, which will taint the image of the assembly. The members have the right to choose their chair, who will still be from opposition,” said the Matopeni MCA.


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