Siaya DG William Oduol's Sh18m expenditure on 'personal comfort' at heart of Senate hearing

Willaim Oduol

Siaya County Deputy Governor Dr William Oduol during the hearing of his impeachment before the Senate special Committee at County Hall on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo I Nation Media Group

Presidential chair valued at Sh1.12 million as part of Sh18 million expenditure on personal comfort, interference with procurement process and intimidation of county officers featured heavily on Wednesday as Siaya County Assembly put up a spirited case to defend ouster of Deputy Governor William Oduol. 

Armed with five lawyers and four witnesses, the county assembly adduced evidences that they said will convince the Senate why Mr Oduol should not continue being the county's deputy governor. 

Mr Oduol is facing four charges including gross violation of the Constitution and other laws, abuse of office and gross misconduct, bullying and misleading the public by giving false information. 

Leading the Assembly's legal team, lawyer Willis Otieno accused Mr Oduol of a grand heist plan to control resources for the benefit of an individual.

He said the deputy governor intimidated, bullied and harassed county staff who dared stand in his way. 

According to Mr Otieno, Mr Oduol assumed a functional office but the first thing he did was to ask for new furniture including a presidential chair worth Sh1.12 million and a presidential table as well as ask for his office to be soundproofed at a cost of Sh2 million. 

In total, he alleged that renovation of the deputy governor's office gobbled up Sh18 million for personal comfort, money that is 20 percent of county's bursary allocation.

The expenditure, said Mr Otieno, was neither approved by the county executive nor the assembly and went contrary to procurement plans by the county government. 

The lawyer then claimed Mr Oduol then moved to another aspect of abuse of office by beginning to pressure county procurement officers to interfere with ongoing procurement processes of fertiliser and certified seeds by allegedly forcing officers to try to change the procurement plan to be an open tender.

William oduol

The Senate Special Committee on impeachment of Siaya County Deputy Governor Dr William Oduol during the hearing at County Hall on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo I Nation Media Group

“The end result was the procurement process collapsed because the officer being harassed had to terminate the process,” said Mr Otieno. “Even the president does not get involved with procurement processes.”

Another allegation was that Mr Oduol interfered with the tender for 86 road contracts by unjustifiably changing specifications of tender documents pushing to favour restricted categories of individuals changing their specifications. 

The next allegation was interference with payments of pending bills where he said evidence showed the deputy governor forwarded a list of people to be paid against a process put in place by the county to guide the process. 

“We will give evidence to show that the deputy governor turned into a debt collection officer for individual contractors in the county,” he said. 

Resorted to bullying

He added that Mr Oduol put pressure on the county finance officer to make this particular set of payments to an identified group of county contractors and when they refused, the deputy governor resorted to bullying the officers for insisting on following the law in procurement and payment of pending bills. 

As if that was not enough, Mr Otieno said, the bullying morphed into public lynching of the county officers without any memo written against the officers for any act of omission or commission. 

“They were to be tried through mob lynching and not through laid down procedures. He never raises issues in the cabinet or with investigative agencies. Their payback was bullying for standing firm against the deputy governor,” he said.

Mr Oduol is also alleged to have run a campaign of dividing Siaya into clans and specifically targeting a certain clan by spreading malicious falsehoods and disinformation. 

“Mr Oduol abused his position to achieve malicious intentions. His continued stay in office is an existential threat to the people of Siaya. Will it be then fair to maintain a deputy governor causing disharmony and disunity among the people? That's against the spirit of the constitution.”

Lawyer Otieno told the Elgeyo Marakwet Senator William Kisang-led committee that the impeachment of Mr Oduol followed the law and met the threshold as set out in the law.

He said residents were given seven days for public participation and the assembly conducted an open and unbiased hearing of the allegations against the deputy governor meeting all the parameters for removal from office by impeachment. 

“He appeared as an individual and can't appear now to contradict that. The ad hoc committee made a report which was again committed to the assembly to consider it with 42 MCAs voting in approval,” he said. 

Mr Otieno further said the MCAs had to move fast to impeach Mr Oduol to nip an alleged criminal enterprise in the bud. 

“When you realise a tree is bent while growing, cut them young. Don't allow a monster to grow. The 42 MCAs are here to plead with you to save them and Siaya people from what is going on in the county.”

The lawyer was responding to attempts by the deputy governor’s lead counsel Paul Nyamodi to have the committee deem the impeachment process as illegal.

Mr Nyamodi had told the committee Mr Oduol has nothing to prove as the impeachment process was a sham and a travesty of the Constitution and therefore cannot bring forth any legitimate impeachment process. 

He argued that none of the charges meets the threshold of impeachment as they are hollow allegations. 

“We urge the Senate to bear in mind the threshold of impeachment. The assembly was anything but fair or objective. We urge the committee to be guided by law when you retire to write your report,” said Mr Nyamodi. 

The lead counsel argued that the censure motion by East Asembo MCA Gordon Onguru is not a motion within the strictness of the law as Mr Onguru did not appear before the assembly to prosecute his motion but it was prosecuted by the assembly contrary to Articles 47 and 50 of the constitution on fair administrative action.

He said according to documents before them, the clerk of the assembly is the one who summoned witnesses while the chairperson and the vice of the ad-hoc committee were the ones who led evidence in chief and witnesses during the whole process. 

“The assembly prosecuted the motion in a biased and partial manner and therefore there is no motion that can flow from such proceedings. The motion is therefore incompetent and should be dismissed,” said Mr Nyamodi.

But Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo rejected the plea to have the motion dismissed by the committee, saying once a motion once moved becomes the property of the House and can be moved by anyone. 

The assembly’s other lawyer Peter Wanyama insisted the due process was followed and it met the threshold as set out in Section 33 of the County Government Act.

“We will demonstrate that procedures for the conduct of the motion was followed and we didn't breach any. The mandate of the special committee is to find whether the charges against the DG are substantiated or not,” said Mr Wanyama. 

Making his opening remarks, Mr Oduol said they came into office on the tenets of good governance, accountability, transparency and public participation but that changed after only three months. 

He said the governor had delegated some financial functions to him and he was to be briefed by Jack Odinga on a weekly basis or as frequently as required. 

Mr Oduol explained that he was put there to institute robust and critical controls in a department where the county has been haemorrhaging to the tune of Sh2 billion in only three years. 

Towards the end of November, he said he began to notice huge withdrawals from recurrent accounts to imprests.

“The withdrawals were huge and abnormal and were happening in close frequency. One junior officer would be sent to the bank to withdraw up to six times,” said Mr Oduol.

He said the withdrawals continued to December where over 100 million was withdrawn through imprests between November and January 2023. 

“We had a tight relationship with the governor and would consult almost daily. But after I confronted him, I noticed he started disengaging and by January, our communication had significantly reduced,” he said.

“The final nail came in February when the governor did a reshuffle and brought back individuals who are under investigation by EACC to their previous positions without consulting me. So, I decided to go back to the people.”

He said despite presenting evidence before the assembly to the general oversight committee, he was not given time for rebuttal. 

“I was the whistleblower raising aspects of theft and misappropriation by the executive but the committee decided to impeach me,” he said.

The besieged deputy governor said his impeachment was ill-informed, choreographed and he is being targeted because he is against malpractices in the county. 

“I am the proverbial hunter who has become the hunted. But I am prepared to pay the ultimate price to defend the freedom of Siaya people. I promise to never let cartels and their mandarins eat your money,” said Mr Oduol.