Ruto CS nominees Chirchir, Jumwa, Ndung’u and Linturi on Azimio radar over integrity issues

CS nominees

From left: CS nominees Davis Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum), Aisha Jumwa ( Public Service and Gender), Njuguna Ndung'u (National Treasury and Planning) and Mithika Linturi (Agriculture and Livestock Development).

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Failure to come out clearly on a number of integrity issues could be the major factor that may break four of President William Ruto’s cabinet nominees that were vetted this week as the committee retreated to write its report.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition party members in the vetting committee have narrowed down to four of the nominees that it wants dropped on grounds of integrity and ongoing court cases.

The coalition is convinced that the withdrawal of cases of some nominees by the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji was political and not that they lacked merit, hence the cloud of integrity issues still hangs over them, a ground they said is fertile for their rejection.

Sources in the coalition told the Sunday Nation that following the end of the vetting yesterday, outstanding issues emerged against some nominees that they cannot be let to pass.

The targeted four, according to the sources, are Mithika Linturi (Agriculture and Livestock Development), Mr Davis Chirchir (Energy and Petroleum), Ms Aisha Jumwa (Public Service and Gender) and Prof Njuguna Ndung’u (National Treasury and Planning).

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed confirmed to the Sunday Nation that they are targeting at least three or four of Ruto’s nominees but he didn’t mention them saying he doesn’t want to pre-empt the content of the report.

“The main things we will look at include integrity, track record, qualifications and regional balance,” Mr Mohammed said.

“We have realised, two of the nominees are coming from the same constituency, Kenya can’t be run like that,” Mr Mohammed added.

The committee retreated yesterday to write the report which is expected to be tabled on Tuesday when the National Assembly resumes after the 10-day recess with debate and approval or rejection of the nominees expected to be on Wednesday.

Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa told the Sunday Nation that they are likely to table the report next week.

“We are likely to retreat to Mombasa for the report writing then depending on how much we work on it, might table it next week,” Mr Ichungwa said.

The opposition coalition is also still mulling over writing a minority report on the vetting of the nominees as part of distancing itself from endorsing people with integrity questions.

A minority report is part of the main report by the majority side and if the minority argue their case on the floor of the House properly and convince the majority of members, then the House can amend and adopt the report in its entirety to reflect the views of those who were minority in the committee.

Former Minority Leader John Mbadi said based on the exercise, the least he is expecting from the Azimio team is a minority report highlighting some of the integrity issues of nominees.

“There are no two ways about it, the team must have a minority report, I know they will push the nominees through on the floor of the House, but we will have made our point and highlight issues that Kenyans expect us to speak about,” Mr Mbadi said.

He pointed out that nominees like Ms Jumwa and Mr Linturi among others have no competence and integrity to serve as cabinet secretaries.

On the flipside, he singled out nominees like Aden Duale (Defence), Kipchumba Murkomen (Roads), Kithure Kindiki (Interior and National Administration) and Rebecca Miano (EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Land Development) as qualified people who will perform in their respective ministries if approved by Parliament.

Mr Mbadi said President Ruto was not interested in appointing competent persons but just wanted to reward individuals who campaigned for him.

In an interview with the Nation, Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi talked about the matter and said it’s time to see action.

“Watch this space. I have made enough pronouncement on this matter and I don’t want to talk more on it,” Mr Wandayi said

Prof Ndung’u, according to Azimio, is not a performer and did not come out clearly on his past records during his tenure as governor of the Central Bank.

Prof Njuguna’s corruption allegations involving Sh1.2 billion controversial security tender awarded to Horsebridge Network Systems was in 2018 dismissed by the Court of Appeal after fighting the allegations for three years.

In 2012, National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a report to the House had recommended that Prof Ndung’u, together with then Transport minister Amos Kimunya, be investigated over a controversial currency printing contract with UK firm De La Rue.

Prof Njuguna, however, exonerated himself from the scandal when he appeared before the vetting panel on Tuesday.

“CEOs are never involved in procurement. The matter went to court and I was exonerated. The blame lies with the procurement committee,” Prof Ndung’u told the panel.

Chicken gate scandal

For Chirchir, the coalition believes the baggage of the chicken gate scandal is still alive in the minds of many Kenyans although he was cleared by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). Although Mr Chirchir told the vetting panel on Tuesday that EACC has never released the report of its investigation over the matter, he pointed out that he had a letter from the commission clearing his name from any offence in the scandal.

“As far as I’m concerned my name was cleared since those who were found culpable had been charged and the file has been closed,” Mr Chirchir told the panel.

Mr Chirchir’s issues with EACC went back to his time at the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) — the precursor of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission — before he was appointed to the Cabinet. He was among those named in a kickbacks scandal that involved the award of a lucrative ballot paper printing contract to British company Smith and Ouzman.

For Linturi, the coalition says he is battling a lot of court cases and if approved, he will spend a lot of his time in court defending himself at a time Kenyans are facing food crisis due to the prolonged drought witnessed across the country.

His availability to serve came up when Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi said; “We are looking for someone who is free and going to work for us because these cases will continue to come up once in office.” During his vetting on Friday, Mr Linturi admitted that he is having 35 civil cases in court, which he attributed to his strained relationship with former Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) George Kinoti.

The former Meru senator, however, told MPs that he just wants to serve Kenyans and forgive those who he said framed him in the many cases he is serving.

“As I sit here today, I want to say that I have fought so many cases that I don’t think I have any energy left to continue fighting. I just want to focus on serving this country,” Mr Linturi said.

For Jumwa, the coalition wants her to step aside until her murder case that is still pending in court is determined.

Ms Jumwa is accused of killing a Mr Ngumbao in 2019 during campaigns for Ganda ward by-election. She is accused jointly with her aide Geoffrey Okuto. During the vetting, Mr Mohammed asked the nominee if she could consider stepping aside until the case is concluded.

“What do you think the family of the deceased is feeling seeing you being vetted, don’t you think it is a honourable thing to step aside, let the case be concluded then you can come back,” posed Mr Mohammed.

Last Tuesday, Ms Jumwa through her lawyer Jared Magolo asked the DPP to consider reviewing the case with a view of converting her into a state witness.

Democratic ideals

Dr Samuel Mbutu, a lecturer from the University of Nairobi political science department, apportioned blame on the vetting committee saying it had failed to adhere to the democratic ideals and instead pursued narrow political party interests even in areas where a candidate does not pass the integrity case.

“Separation of performers from non-performers, qualified from the non-qualified. This means that a public officer must attain the necessary academic qualifications, the necessary experience and a good track record of his previous encounters. This is critical in ensuring that the taxpayers get value from their hard earned revenues but this has not been adhered to by the committee,” Dr Mbutu said.

Speaker Moses Wetangula yesterday said their report will be out early next week but did not give a specific day

“We are now retreating to start preparing the report. We cannot keep the country and government in suspense without a cabinet because the role of cabinet under the constitution is critical, so our report should be early next week and the rest will be done through the laid out standing orders,” Mr Wetangula said. 

“We must report back to the plenary of the Parliament through the House Business Committee HBC and whatever report we make must be voted for and accepted by the House for the transmission to the requesting authority who is the President,” he added.