A flurry of activities surrounding the maize scandal – believed to have cost the taxpayer an estimated US$26.1 million (Sh2 billion) – since the Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga received the final forensic audit report on the saga, have pushed him to call for public patience to allow for its evaluation before he states his official position. Before the PM met journalists on the progress of the scandal which came to the public limelight only last year, on Monday internationally acknowledged auditors, PriceWaterhouse Coopers handed him a 366-page document which he received and assured he will make his position known. The following day, on Tuesday, the contents of the audit report were made public and Kenyan Agriculture Minister, William Ruto was named as the main culprit.
Some of the recommendations of the damning report – that also incriminated two senior officers at the PM’s office as key in the scandal – state that Ruto should resign to pave way for further investigations. Yesterday, Ruto came out fighting and declared that he would not resign. The minister instead shifted blame to the Ministry of Special Programmes which is under the Office of President. The audit report has blacklisted the PM’s Permanent Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Isahakia and Principal Secretary/Chief of Staff, Mr. Karoli Omondi as using their influence in the scandal. Riala who is yet to peruse the 366-page document has been on the forefront in the last one week in calling for the resignation of the country’s Education Minister, Prof. Sam Ongeri and his PS, Prof. Karega Mutahi over embezzlement of close to US$52.1 million (Sh4 billion) entitled by development partners to a Free Primary Education programme started in 2003. However, despite pressure for their resignation, the two have clang on.
The PM met the country’s senior news editors in a move to state his official position on the scandal that was first reported in 2008 but reports indicate that he chose instead to announce that a technical committee will be formed to study the report before any action is taken. The PM’s spokesperson, Dennis Onyango reported that; “it is only yesterday did he begin going through the 366-page document. He assures the public that he will very soon make his position known once he familiarises himself with the contents and recommendations of the report.” 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.” Raila was responding to questions from journalists after PwC presented a summary of the report to him, Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta and news people at the meeting held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Nairobi.
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. 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. 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 defended himself; “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.
First Published on Newstime Africa – 12 February 2010
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