April 28th 2017

Top Stories / National

How Uhuru's niece Nana Gecaga blackmailed corrupt KICC board into top job

A well-placed source informed this newspaper that during the conference, Mr Magara and the board persuaded Parliament (Senate, which sits at KICC) and other agencies in the Ministry of Tourism including the Bomas of Kenya to provide furniture for temporary use by KICC during the conference.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 27 Jan 2017 14:19 EAT

KICC board chairman James Magara with Ms Gecaga and other board members.

Details can be revealed of how President Uhuru Kenyatta’s niece Nana Gacaga intimidated and blackmailed director of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre to confirm her as the chief executive of the parastatal despite lacking the requisite qualifications for the job. The CEO, a blood sister to the president’s personal assistant at State House Jomo Gachaga, is the wife of Mathare MP Stephen Kariuki.

She was recently confirmed as chief executive of KICC despite lacking a Masters degree as required by the law. She had acted in the job for six months but had no chance of landing the substantive appointment, according to interviews with multiple sources familiar with her appointment. Information reaching the Kenya Free Press indicates that Ms Gecaga used evidence of corruption involving KICC board members, including audio recordings of a board member who was seeking bribes from businessmen doing business with KICC.

The entire KICC board is currently under investigation over a Sh250 million contract for a conference management system. The board is chaired by former assistant minister James Omingo Magara, and includes Ken Boit, Kenneth Waithiru, Jecinta Mbithi, Lucy Mukumbi-Macridid, Jane Wambui Adama, Kevinya Mwendwa and Fatuma Hirsi.

Due to Ms Gecaga’s familiarity with extreme corruption involving the board members, she was able to get the appointment in total violation of the law and against Tourism CS Najib Balala’s wishes. The Tourism Act provides that only the CS can make apointments to the office of KICC CEO, and indeed Ms Gecaga’s appointment as acting CEO was done by the minister.

However, following the emergence of top-level corruption, the acting CEO fell out with the minister (as explained below), leaving Mr Magara to sign the substantive appointment. In the press statement that announced the appointment, Mr Magara indicated that Ms Gecaga holds a degree in Business Administration from London's American Intercontinental University and has a wealth of experience in public relations and marketing.

The Tourism Act states clearly that the successful candidate must have a Masters degree in marketing, business administration or a related discipline and at least ten years’ experience at senior management level in tourism, hospitality or related sector. Whether the university Ms Gecaga attended is recognised by Kenyan authorities is also open to question.

The university admits all students who apply to it and has had its accreditation revoked by American authorities several times in the last twenty years. Two years ago, its London campus was bought by another university after the UK high education’s Quality Assurance Agency said in an audit that there were "fundamental concerns regarding the academic standards being achieved" at the university.

The tender under Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigation was for the design, supply and installation of computerised conference management system, and it was awarded to a South African company called Congress Rental. It is alleged that KICC board members openly demanded bribes from the company, and one official of the firm tapped a board member making his demands.

With the recording, the director sought assistance from Kenyan authorities but did not avail the audio to the EACC. However, the recording landed in Ms Gecaga’s hands, and she used it, according to our sources, to blackmail the entire board into giving her the job.

The CEO holds the key to investigations into multimillion shilling contracts at the KICC which are under the EACC’s radar, according to sources at EACC and the KICC. Among these is investigations to the firm Hydrowinds Limited, which is associated with the chairman, which was paid Sh150 million for non-existent furniture during the World Trade Organisation conference in Nairobi in December 2015.

A well-placed source informed this newspaper that during the conference, Mr Magara and the board persuaded Parliament (Senate, which sits at KICC) and other agencies in the Ministry of Tourism including the Bomas of Kenya to provide furniture for temporary use by KICC during the conference.

“However, after the conference, the chairman pushed hard for his firm to be paid for supplying the furniture,” said the source, who informed this website that the tender is subject to EACC investigation. Companies associated with several other board members were awarded tenders for various items as well. Former Acting CEO and now General Manager Operations Joel Terer is also alleged to have won a lucrative tender through a firm called Kimbiza.

The WTO conference emerged as a big blot in KICC’s reputation, and two directors Johana Muchai and Charles Gacheru as well as chief executive Fred Simiyu were shown the door to pave way for investigations after the mess came to light.

KICC advertised for the CEO’s job while the WTO conference fallout was unfolding, and Ms Gecaga and the board fell out with the minister after the minister directed that the board members not travel to America for a conference of the American Society of Travel Agents for which the U.S blocked his own visa.

The United States has banned several top Kenyans from traveling to the country, including a top ODM governor as this website reported. After Mr Balala’s visa was denied, he directed that no public official should travel to the event, but the KICC board disobeyed the directive, going on a trip from which the members were paid Sh1.2 million in per diem after flying first class.

From the U.S, the board members also travelled to Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Spain for “benchmarking” trips to learn tourism management in those countries. The trips and the payments to contractors for non-existent business affected KICC’s cash management, leading to the firm not paying genuine contractors for goods and services delivered, an approximate debt of Sh1 billion.

Last year, KICC suppliers staged protests and wrote to the president to seek his intervention in the debts owed to them.

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