Margaret Nyakang'o, the Controller of Budget. ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH BARASA | NMG


For Margaret Nyakango, when it rains it pours

Margaret Nyakang'o, the Controller of Budget, has for four years kept an eye on the use of public funds and cited expenditure breaches.

But on Tuesday last week, Dr Nyakang'o found herself in the thick of things after she was arrested and arraigned the following day on a raft of allegations including illegally operating a Sacco, conspiracy to defraud and forgery.

Her arrest triggered public uproar notably with the lawmakers from the Azimio La Umoja wing and those from her Kisii homeland claiming the government was using blackmail to silence the Controller of Budget (CoB).

Opposition chief Raila Odinga and his running mate in the 2022 general elections, Martha Karua, said President William Ruto’s administration has turned to frivolous charges to force Dr Nyakang'o out of office.

“Her tribulations are thus politically motivated witch-hunt which the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) will find difficult to convince Kenyans about, at a time Kenyans are writhing under full-blown corruption,” Mr Odinga said.

Dr Nyakang'o, who became the second CoB after she succeeded Agnes Odhiambo in 2019, has lately been vocal in calling out the Ruto Administration and counties for the wastage of public funds, irregularities in payment of salaries and a laissez-faire approach to the drawing of loans.

In the CoB quarterly reports, untapped loans where Kenyans pay billions of commitment fees for undrawn loans, use of manual payrolls for salaries and unnecessary trips abroad have been notable issues.

“There is a need to emphasise realistic and truthful budget projections of both revenues and expenditures by rationalising non-essential expenditures,” Dr Nyakang'o notes in her latest update on expenditure by the national government.

To the public and a section of MPs and senators who have spoken out following her arrest, it is literally the choice of words like truthful, realistic and non-essential expenditures that seemingly do not sit well with the current administration.

The CoB was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a complaint made against her and 10 other people in 2016.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions approved the charges in a letter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on November 30.

In October, while appearing before the National Dialogue Committee, Dr Nyakang'o shocked the country when she disclosed that her salary and those of other State officials were inflated three times and they were not receiving the extras.

The revelations elicited talk of "budgeted corruption" by the very agencies entrusted with overseeing the use of public funds.

“When I was doing the budget for Consolidated Fund Services, this is where my salary is paid from. I found out that my salary was budgeted at three times what my annual salary is, and it was like that for all the State officers,” she told the committee.

“I am the only State officer in my institution. So, there's nothing like confusion there; I am all alone. So, I asked them why the budget is showing three times. I have not received an answer.”

To many, this pronouncement is to blame for her tribulations that for the first time saw her under police arrest.

Dr Nyakang'o said that she endured a harrowing 12 hours under police arrest from December 4 when a routine evening after a golfing session turned awry and saw her driven more than 400 kilometres to Mombasa to record a statement.

She had been picked up by officers who had been on their trail (Dr Nyakang'o and her husband) and then told she was to record a statement at the Central Bank of Kenya headquarters.

They, however, changed mid-way and drove her to Mombasa to record the statement before being taken to court.

She denied the charges and was released on a cash bail of Sh500,000. But the High Court suspended her prosecution until May next year when a petition filed by West Mugirango MP Stephen Mogaka will be heard and determined.

But the EACC now says that Dr Nyakang'o will be charged alongside the former Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yatani, and former Treasury Principal Secretary Julius Muia for the controversial government purchase of shares in Telkom Kenya for Sh6.09 billion.

Telkom deal

Surprisingly, Dr Nyakang'o had disclosed that she came under too much pressure from the former administration, forcing her to authorise withdrawal of the billions of shillings to pay off the UK-based private equity fund, Helios Investment Partners, days to last year’s General Elections under the Telkom deal.

Dr Nyakang'o, a certified public accountant, holds a doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Liverpool, UK.

She is also an avid golfer and once told this writer that teeing off helps her cool off from a demanding schedule of being at the centre of expenditure of public funds.

Like many others who see the charges as a convenient way to silence her and force her to go easy on her analysis of government expenditure every three months, Dr Nyakango hopes to outlive the turbulence and finish her eight years in office.