Top Stories / National
Wednesday, 31 Aug 2016 20:13 EAT
Philip Kinisu’s last day as chairman of the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission arrived in the typical way his predecessors' had: ejected from office in the public interest. Kinisu resigned from his job this afternoon after a parliamentary investigation established the improprieties he had been accused of, and which he denied, over his conflicted relationship with the scandal-ridden National Youth Service.
For weeks, the media has been awash with information indicating that while Kinisu was overseeing investigations of corruption at NYS, a company associated with his wife (and in which he is or was a director until recently) was benefitting from lucrative but irregular contracts from the NYS.
The resignation was an unexpected ending for Kinisu’s illustrious career which also went to show the depth and allure of corruption in Kenya. Kinisu had built his reputation in auditing and business management, rising to the apex of KPMG's operations in East Africa.
His taking over the anti-graft agency early this year at a time when public confidence in it had tumbled raised expectations about a new dawn at the commission whose previous four chairmen left in no less controversial circumstances. And he didn't disappoint. For months following his appointment, Kinisu struck the right chords with a public anxious about inaction on runaway corruption.
He pledged to reform the EACC itself before looking outwards, even launching a process of internal vetting whose results, paradoxically, contributed to no change at the commission. His assurances about progress on anti-corruption fight over time became monotonous as the sea change he promised never materialised.
Unbeknown to the public, the chairman, or at least his wife and daughter who are directors of the family company, Esaki Limited, had been sucked into the web of corruption at NYS. Kinisu, his wife Mary Wanjiru and daughter Caro Nato Kinisu were registered as directors of Esaki Limited as at April 19, though Kinisu has insisted that he had resigned as a director in 2008.
While NYS was under Kinisu's investigation, the firm benefitted from irregular contracts from NYS amounting to millions of shillings. For example, on October 10, 2014, NYS paid the company Sh18,973,000 for borehole drilling materials and three days later made a payment of Sh11,487,400 for similar materials.
On April 8, 2015, the firm received Sh1.9 million for steel drums. In May 2016, the firm received Sh2,922,181 for unknown products. All payments were being made to the company’s account at I&M Bank, Riverside Drive Branch.
The company did not meet the set pre-qualification criteria for a number of the tenders it won, and investigations have shown that its award of tenders and payments were fast-tracked in a manner that suggested top level collusion between its directors and NYS officials.
When these facts were exposed, Kinisu did what his other predecessors had done: state his innocence and fight to remain in office. A public petition to the National Assembly's Justice and Legal Affairs Committee unlocked more damming information, and the committee yesterday announced that Kinisu was indeed unfit to continue holding the office.
If the Committee's verdict was upheld by Parliament, President Uhuru Kenyatta would be required to form a tribunal to investigate Kinisu and remove him from office. This is the fate he avoided by his resignation.
“To ensure that due attention is paid to the fight against corruption, I have today rendered to his Excellency the President my resignation as chairman of EACC,” read a statement in a letter which Kinisu sent to media houses.
Kinisu maintained his innocence despite all the accusations leveled against him. "I maintain that the company and I are innocent of the allegations that have been made..."
While Kinisu's company evidently began trading with NYS long before he was appointed EACC chairman, his failure to disclose the conflict of interest raised questions about his innocence in the dealings. His claim that he had resigned from the company was also not supported by records at the Registrar of Companies.
Moreover, in a judicious legal system the Kinisu company's dealings with NYS subverted laid down procedures for procurement by public entities and could be subject for investigation on their own merit, whether or not Kinisu was a chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The writer is the news editor of the Kenya Free Press