President Kenyatta has launched a crackdown against top civil servants he believes are engaging in corruption at the presidency, government officials said on Tuesday.
Among those targeted in the crackdown are four top officials, all above the level of section heads, who are being accused of constituting a cartel to manipulate multi-billion shilling contracts.
Mr Kenyatta has also shuffled the working arrangements of other key officials, bringing Mr Francis Kimemia, the Secretary to the Cabinet, to State House. Mr Kimemia had been working from Harambee House, using the same office he had when he was Head of Public Service.
The Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service, Mr Joseph Kinyua, will work three days a week from Harambee House in what is being seen as an effort to take a firmer grip of senior government officials. His main office is at State House.
The officials said the targeted civil servants have been influencing procurement in various ministries and deciding who is to get top jobs.
“There is a seriously entrenched group that has had long interest in government. They are so deep in government that nothing can happen without them having their hands on it,” a source familiar with State House thinking told the Nation.
This came as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) prepared to arrest Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njuguna Ndung’u to answer abuse of office allegations over a Sh1.2 billion security tender at the bank.
The officials said some key people in the Jubilee administration have been taken aback by the entrenchment of corruption cartels in government, made up of businessmen working in cahoots with senior civil servants.
Officials claim that the cartel had a hand in various lucrative government contracts involving multi-billion shillings such as Anglo Leasing, police vehicles and communication and the recent controversy over the construction of the standard gauge railway.
“It is a small group of people who have taken advantage of the Internal Security budget to influence most of the tenders in government. They do it with business people who are outside government,” a source familiar with State House issues said.
In the last five days, Mr Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, have warned that they will sack civil servants who engage in corruption regardless of their level in government.
Mr Kenyatta accused senior public officers in his own office, saying, he would start with them to show his resolve to break the cartel. He fired the warning shot when he launched the first batch of 1,200 vehicles leased for the police.
“I wish to state that the government will not tolerate corrupt public officers. The time for transformation has come and those who are not ready to change should leave and give a chance to others willing to serve,” he said.
“For those who are not ready to change, we shall not plead with you any more.”
At the same function, Mr Ruto appeared to allude to the extent of corruption in procurement when he wondered why vehicles cost more when they are bought by government.
“One cannot explain why government pays more for a vehicle from certain dealers than individual buyers, yet government buys in bulk and should therefore enjoy economies of scale,” Mr Ruto said.
Government tenders worth Sh461.8 billion are currently embroiled in controversy, with questions being asked about the procedures followed in awarding them.
They include the Sh425 billion standard gauge railway, the Sh22 billion school laptops project, the Sh13 billion National Social Security Fund tender involving Tassia scheme and Hazina Towers and the estimated Sh1.8 billion paid annually to ghost workers on the government’s payroll.
Sources claimed that the misuse of funds meant for security was the reason President Kenyatta established the Nairobi Metropolitan Command as a wing of the Kenya Defence Forces to deal with terrorism, drug trafficking and urban crimes because operations by the Kenya Police Service were failing to achieve the target.
“Police operations have largely failed because not all money meant for operations is utilised. The big guys will take out their share first. However, if you take the military there, they succeed,” the source said.
ASSIGNING POLICE WORK
Assigning police work to the military on internal matters is fraught with risk, as evidenced by the rescue operation at Westgate last year during which a police officer was killed by friendly fire and the mall looted.
Jubilee has come under pressure to deal with emerging corruption.
Nearly three weeks ago, Uongozi, an advocacy group associated with former anti-corruption PS John Githongo and former Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission boss PLO Lumumba, wrote an open letter to the President asking him to suspend the railway project until all questions that have been raised over the tender are answered.