April 28th 2017

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Oparanya asked to come clean on Shitanda burial funds

A number of MPs and other political leaders from Kakamega County have demanded full disclosure on the expenditure by Kakamega County Government towards the funeral expenses of former minister Soita Shitanda.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 14 Jun 2016 08:09 EAT

A number of MPs and other political leaders from Kakamega County have demanded full disclosure on the expenditure by Kakamega County Government towards the funeral expenses of former minister Soita Shitanda.

Shinyalu MP Silverse Anami’s claim that the county government spent Sh5.5 million in connection with the funeral sparked a war of words between supporters and opponents of Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. What the county government spent on the funeral has not been stated and Oparanya’s senior officials have ducked questions about the issue.

The head of the Nairobi funeral committee, Cyrus Jirongo, says his group, which had wide powers over Shitanda’s burial arrangements, never received any contribution from the county government. Jirongo claims that Governor Oparanya, who was in Nairobi when Jirongo’s committee kicked off its fundraising efforts, declined to cooperate with the committee, insisting that the county government’s contribution would be given in Kakamega.

 Jirongo further alleges that Governor Oparanya and his team handled the county’s role in the funeral without participation of other interested parties. “The county operated without involving even the widow,” Jirongo said. The chairman of the Kakamega committee, George Malumasi, has also confirmed that his team never received any support from the county government.

It is normal in many Kenyan communities for bereaved families to solicit material support in aid of elaborate funeral rites. Even families of  well-off people such as cabinet ministers and notable businessmen hold fundraising events when their loved ones die. Participation in such committees also endears leaders to clans and social groups of the bereaved families.

Over time, funeral fundraising committees, especially for prominent people, have become theatres of corruption. Shitanda, a former three-time MP for Malava and minister for housing, was buried at Butali on June 4. Deputy President William Ruto contributed significant resources to the committees in Nairobi and Butali. However, questions persist about how the funds raised in connection with the funeral were spent.

“We can account for each and every cent of the money we raised in Nairobi but this does not include the donations by Kakamega government,” said Jirongo, who also claims that Governor Oparanya’s aides committed substantial public funds to the funeral.

Oparanya’s deputy Philip Kutima refutes Jirongo and Anami’s claims. Kutima claims that Jirongo had tried to use his Nairobi committee to trap the county into needless spending. “Jirongo handed us (county) a budget of Sh8.3 million and advised that we should deposit the money in a private account. When we refused, he began making all manner of claims,” said Kutima.

The national government, perhaps at the behest of Ruto, provided funds to clear medical expenses for Shitanda’s long hospitalization and a military aircraft that carried the minister’s remains from Nairobi to Kakamega.

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