MPs put Governor James Orengo to task over graft in Siaya County

Elisha Odhiambo

Siaya Governor James Orengo (left) Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo and his Alego Usonga counterpart Sam Atandi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Siaya Governor James Orengo is a man under siege just one month after taking office. The governor faces ultimatums from area MPs over alleged corruption by some members of his administration.

Mr Orengo, who has indicated his commitment to arrest the situation, has invited the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate graft allegations in the county. The governor, who has also formed a task force on county systems audits, is caught between competing interests pitting the legislators against his staff.

Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi and his Gem counterpart Elisha Odhiambo have, however, given the first-term governor an ultimatum to sack all corrupt individuals in his administration or they call for mass action and eject them from office.

The position by the two MPs has, however, been termed as premature and usurpation of Senator Dr Oburu Oginga and MCAs oversight role, as the governor has already shown commitment to deal with the situation.

Nation.Africa has, however, established that supremacy battle pitting Mr Atandi against Siaya Deputy Governor William Oduol, all natives of Alego Usonga, could be playing out in earnest as the MP and Mr Oduol seek to have Mr Orengo’s attention and grip in his administration.

Former Alego Usonga MP Sammy Weya told Mr Atandi and Mr Oduol to show leadership and work together as they did during the campaigns instead of squabbling as this could derail services to the people of Siaya.

 “Leadership is not about who wields power but service to the people. They agreed before elections and worked together, why are they disagreeing now?

 “They must show leadership and ensure systems are put in place to curb wanton theft of public funds in Siaya,” Mr Weya told Nation on Sunday.

The former legislator told Mr Atandi and Mr Odhiambo to offer advice to the governor whom they all campaigned for in the last election instead of threatening to “incite the public to storm the county offices as this is not civilised.”

He questioned why they never mobilised the public for demonstrations during the last regime and why they are plotting to do so now with Mr Orengo who is barely one month in office 

“They are Orengo’s friends, why can’t they advise him to send the suspects on compulsory leave as investigations continue instead of threatening him with mass action,” posed Mr Weya.

 “It is strange that they want to plan demonstrations against the regime of their friend but could not do so in the last ten years during Cornel Rasanga’s tenure.”

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has since launched investigations into the alleged theft of Sh400 million from the county government of Siaya.

EACC Western regional manager Mr George Oira On September 29 wrote to the county secretary seeking documents and information relevant to the Sh400 million said to have been irregularly paid out.

"The EACC is conducting an investigation on the alleged corrupt conduct, abuse of office by some officials of the county government of Siaya," the letter read.

This follows another investigation of Sh600 million in the county government by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Last year, the detectives interrogated up to 64 staff members including former Chief Finance Officer Dennis Nyonje, Michael Ogolla (Finance Director) and Dennis Simiyu who was a cashier in the department who had been suspended by former Governor Cornel Rasanga over the loss of the funds.

Sources within the county government have accused Mr Atandi of targeting particular officers in the devolved unit over corruption yet “some of those suspended by the former governor were his main campaign financiers as he sought to recapture his Alego Usonga MP seat.”

 “We know the ruling on CDF which declared it unconstitutional is the cause of the sudden unease among some of the MPs putting Governor Orengo under pressure as they could be seeking for opportunities either for their lieutenants or themselves,” said Mr John Ogeya, a resident of Siaya town.

Mr Weya on Sunday blamed Mr Orengo over the corruption that he noted had entrenched itself in Siaya “as he failed to do his oversight role well during his ten years as Siaya Senator.”

He said that had Mr Orengo taken a keen interest in the oversight role, wanton theft of public funds could not have been witnessed.

Mr Orengo has, however, acknowledged the Treasury in Siaya is “rotten.”

“… without mincing my words, the Treasury in Siaya is rotten”. Therefore, the latest report on “financial impropriety and administrative malpractices is not news."

The governor sought to assure the public he is in control and that a comprehensive forensic audit into the financial and human resource systems of the preceding administration is underway.

He also said his government had stopped any new procurement and payment of any pending bills and allowances until verification and confirmation is done.

However, sources within his administration indicated that this could derail services, adding that withdrawals have still to be done including the recent funds that facilitated his travels.

On September 22, Mr Orengo constituted a seven-member audit committee led by retired Auditor General Edward Ouko to conduct an audit of the county's financial and human resource systems with a sharp focus on the last two financial years of former Governor Rasanga’s administration.