Eyes on Parliament as it vets Ruto's ambassador picks

Joash Maangi

Former Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi (left) with President William Ruto during a past event. 

Photo credit: File | DPPS

What you need to know:

  • For Maangi, EACC said he is mentioned in an ongoing investigation into a multi-million housing project by the National Housing Corporation
  • As for Mr Lokaale, the EACC told MPs that he had been named in an investigation into the misappropriation of mortgage funds in Turkana County
  • Mr Kiplagat is also facing integrity charges over skewed recruitment in Baringo County during his tenure

All eyes are on Parliament this week as it prepares to report on President William Ruto's ambassadorial nominees.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has flagged three of the 27 ambassadorial nominees for outstanding integrity concerns.

The committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs retreated to a Nairobi hotel on Friday to write its report on their suitability, and it's expected to submit its report any time.

The anti-corruption body raised integrity concerns about former Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi, former Turkana County Assembly speaker Ekitela Erastus Lokaale, who has been nominated as High Commissioner to New York, USA, and former Baringo speaker David Kiplagat Kerich, who has been interviewed for the Washington DC post.

For Maangi, EACC said he is mentioned in an ongoing investigation into a multi-million housing project by the National Housing Corporation involving a company linked to the former Kisii deputy governor. 

"A recommendation has been made to the Director of Public Prosecutions to charge Joash Arthur Maangi and others in a matter relating to the NHC housing project. The DPP returned the file to the EACC for further investigation, which is ongoing," the EACC said in its letter to the committee.

Mr Maangi, however, told MPs during questioning that the DPP did not prosecute him, describing the case as a witch hunt.

"As clearly stated, ODPP did not prosecute me, I am innocent...this could be a witch hunt. I am just a director of the company based in the US, the managing director is the one who runs the company and is being investigated," said Mr Maangi.

As for Mr Lokaale, the EACC told MPs that he had been named in an investigation into the misappropriation of mortgage funds in Turkana County.

Mr Kiplagat is also facing integrity charges over skewed recruitment in Baringo County during his tenure.

"Your image is tarnished. The whispers now in Washington DC are about the kind of ambassador we are going to send there. Your integrity has been questioned, is it not better to deal with your problems before you have legal problems? You will be representing not only the President of Kenya but over 50 million Kenyans abroad," Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan asked the nominee.

Mr Hassan also questioned Mr Kerich's competence in the diplomatic world as he was being sent to one of the most important posts.

"Looking at your CV and your experience, you are completely underwhelming in terms of your experience in diplomacy. You don't have any diplomatic experience. You have no experience in foreign relations, your knowledge of international relations is almost zero, you may be an accomplished lawyer but you are not a diplomat," Mr Hassan said.

Despite the questions raised by the nominees, the committee proceeded with their vetting, with chairman Nelson Koech saying they had not yet been charged in court or arrested.

In the absence of any preferred charges by the DPP, Mr Koech said, the nominee is presumed innocent.

In terms of competence, Mr Charles Githinji, nominated as ambassador to Goma DRC, shocked the committee by demonstrating a lack of understanding of the issues.

For example, Mr Githinji did not know what GDP stood for. He told the committee that GDP means the total population of a country.

Interestingly, Mr Githinji also told the committee that he did not know what (EACRF) stood for. When asked about countries that share borders with the DRC, he mentioned Malawi.

"It is very disappointing and frustrating to interview you when you don't even know what EACRF is," Mr Koech told the nominee.

Mr Githinji, who got a D- in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), also got an E in both Kiswahili and English.

In addition, Mr Githinji has no other post-secondary education and the only experience he has is as a petrol station attendant, which MPs said was irrelevant to the job awaiting him.

He told the MPs that the college he attended in Kasarani was closed down by the Ministry of Education before he could sit for his exams.

"As a petrol station attendant, you don't need any experience, you don't even need to talk to anyone," Kirima Ngucine of Imenti Central told the nominee.

Kajiado Central MP Elijah Kanchory Memusi told the nominee to consider withdrawing his nomination and give other qualified diplomats a chance.

"How do you think qualified diplomats with PhDs feel when they see your nomination? Don't you think you should leave the position for others? Mr Memusi asked.

Although a degree or diploma is not a mandatory requirement for an ambassadorial post, one must at least demonstrate competence and understanding of the issues for which one has been nominated.

A basic knowledge of the post to be filled and of the economic relationship or how Kenya benefits from it is considered by the committee to be a demonstration of the nominee's competence.

In the case of Kenya's nominee for the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ms Fancy Too, she admitted to the committee that she did not know the person to whom she would be presenting her credentials in Geneva.

Addressing a press conference at the end of the vetting process, Mr Koech said any nominee who showed incompetence would not be going to their posts.

"It's too early to discuss the capabilities and competence of the candidates and it's not a decision that I can make as chairman, it's a collective decision of the committee. What I will tell you is that all those who have shown incompetence will certainly not be going to their stations," Mr Koech said.

Embattled outgoing East African Community (EAC) Secretary General (SG) and Moscow appointee Peter Mathuki was confronted by MPs over his nomination to leave a coveted position in the regional assembly.

Mr Mathuki faced an impeachment motion in the East African Legislative Assembly over allegations of irregularities in the spending of some $6 million, which he denied.

However, during his vetting, the committee did not delve into the allegations of graft that have dogged his tenure at the EAC.

Kinangop MP Kwenya Thuku wanted to know if his appointment was a demotion.

"The question that arises from where I sit is that I feel that you are being demoted after working so hard. Do you think going to Moscow is a demotion? Mr Kwenya asked.

But Mr Mathuki said he did not see his nomination as a demotion as he was ready to serve the public wherever he was.

"I don't want to call it a demotion. I want to call it a privilege and an honour and when it comes from the Head of State of the Republic of Kenya who for some reason in his own wisdom feels that the energy should be taken elsewhere," Mr Mathuki told the committee.

The vetting of the nominees will be another litmus test for Parliament, which has been a rubber stamp in approving most nominees, even those of questionable character.

During the scrutiny of President Ruto's nominees for Cabinet Secretaries, questions were raised about four nominees, some of whom had active cases in court while others showed incompetence during vetting but were still approved by Parliament.

The four are Mithika Linturi (CS nominee for Agriculture), Moses Kuria (Trade, Investment and Industry), Penina Malonza (Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage) and Aisha Jumwa (Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action).

"This House is not a rubber stamp; this House is doing its constitutional duty. When we start dealing with individuals, we must not lose sight of the requirements of the Constitution. I will plead with MPs and the whole House to take it upon ourselves to interrogate each and every individual," said Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi during the consideration of the CSs.