EACC, DCI clash of egos imperils graft fight

This image shows Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission CEO Halakhe Waqo. The agency has the legal power to investigate corruption cases. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The battle for supremacy appears to have been triggered by the multibillion-shilling maize and fertiliser scandals.
  • Kinoti took up his new job with gusto, investigating afresh cases that had been presumed closed and, in some instances, touching the raw nerves of the ruling class and the EACC.
  • In our questions to Mr Waqo, we had asked whether he stopped the DCI from conducting a parallel investigation on the maize scandal. His spokesman denied it.

Conflicts between investigating agencies are threatening to stagnate the war on corruption. Already, there are subtle signs of engendered disarray in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign against economic crimes.

Both the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) have jurisdiction over economic crimes.

It appears that EACC feels that investigating corruption is its primary and only purpose and other agencies should leave the job to them.

EACC’s dismal record, coupled with the DCI’s widely publicised successes in arresting high-level suspects, have created a jurisdictional mess which bodes ill for the anti-graft effort.

MAIZE SCANDAL

The battle for supremacy appears to have been triggered by the multibillion-shilling maize and fertiliser scandals.

The powder keg has two fuses; the overlaps in various probes undertaken by the DCI and EACC — which some observers say have been causing investigation delays and bungling of cases — and discontent over the funding of the two institutions.

The row has been bubbling under the surface for some time now, but gained momentum when the DCI got a new boss, Mr George Kinoti, nine months ago.

Mr Kinoti took up his new job with gusto, investigating afresh cases that had been presumed closed and, in some instances, touching the raw nerves of the ruling class and the EACC, which now appeared to be playing catch-up.

FUNDING

In the renewed war on corruption, the EACC, the constitutional body mandated with the task of slaying the corruption dragon, seemed isolated, with the DCI and the Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji grabbing most of the public attention.

EACC and DCI get almost an equal budget, with EACC’s 2018/19 budget standing at Sh2.7 billion against DCI’s Sh2.8 billion. This is Sh200 million less than the Sh3 billion the directorate received last year.

The sub-text of police complaints is that they are doing all the work while EACC is getting the lion’s share of the money. Some police bosses think that, with Sh2.7 billion at its disposal, the EACC could do better.

“With all the money they get, why are they unable to investigate high-profile cases?” asked a senior police officer who regularly speaks to the Nation but asked not to be named so as to comment freely in the conflict.

SALARY

The EACC director earns slightly above Sh1.5 million a month while new investigative recruits earn more than Sh120,000 a month.

On the other hand, the Inspector-General of Police earns Sh854,241 while a senior assistant inspector-general takes home Sh274,890 every month.

Besides investigating serious crimes like murder, human trafficking, and narcotics, the DCI also fights corruption, guided by at least six Acts of Parliament, which include the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003, the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2009, the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act of 2010, the Penal Code, the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act No 33 of 2015, and the Public Finance Management Act of 2012.

On the other hand, the EACC’s powerful mandate is spelt by a single Act of Parliament, the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, 2003.

But, even then, and despite the wide-ranging powers of its officers, the commission, as an investigative arm of government, seems largely ignored by State officials. Often, requests or directives to investigate are directed to the DCI.

CARTELS

For instance, in March this year, when the maize scandal broke out, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri called in the police, warning of “cartels involved in diversion of government subsidised fertiliser”.

“Further, reports in the public domain suggest that there are brokers who are selling maize, whose source is suspected to be our neighbouring countries, to the government through the National Cereals and Produce Board,” said Mr Kiunjuri in a letter dated March 27, 2018 and requesting investigations “in order to safeguard public funds invested in the procurement of maize and fertiliser”.

Now, the police source said, attempts to unravel who was behind these payments were thwarted by the EACC, which said it was investigating the matter.

However, the EACC, through its spokesman, Mr Yasin Amaro, disputes the police claims.

“There is no fallout between us and the DCI,” he says. “We have arrested people over this scandal and charged them. We also hold multi-agency meetings at the Office of the Attorney-General with them, and even last Friday there was one such meeting.”

SUSPECTS

On the maize scandal, Mr Amaro said that the EACC charged the Principal Secretary for Agriculture, Mr Richard Lesiyampe, and officers at the Eldoret depot of the National Cereals and Produce Board for jointly conspiring to commit a corruption offence through irregular purchase and supply of maize, which led to loss of public funds.

Other suspects included NCPB Eldoret silo manager Caroline Cherono, records officer Renson Korir, and Uasin Gishu County director in charge of agriculture Joseph Kipruto Cheboi. Some traders were also charged.

In our questions to Mr Waqo, we had asked whether he stopped the DCI from conducting a parallel investigation on the maize scandal. His spokesman denied it. “How did he do that? We know that this matter is coming up since the President has talked about it,” Mr Amaro said.

As the EACC downplays the feud, the emerging picture is of strife between the institutions mandated to investigate crimes independent of each other.

The EACC Act gives the anti-graft agency unlimited powers “to do or perform all such other things or acts” that touch on enforcement of Chapter Six of the Constitution.

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