A defiant suspended Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu has come out guns blazing and accused the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of a witchhunt and working at the behest of powerful faceless individuals to end her stay in Cabinet.
Mrs Ngilu launched a stinging attack on the commission and accused the anti-graft investigators of being manipulated by “busybodies who claim close links to State House” for her “persecution”.
“I find the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) approach to investigations, which is full of suspense, and hide-and-seek games, startling. I find the piecemeal approach an exercise in witch-hunt,” said Mrs Ngilu.
An aide of the suspended Cabinet Secretary claimed that the commission was dancing to the tunes of certain individuals who claim close links to the Presidency.
“They are doing this so that Number One (in reference to President Kenyatta) can finally sack her. But Number One sees potential problems in doing that,” the aide said.
But EACC deputy CEO Michael Mubea rejected the claim that the commission was being manipulated by certain individuals. “You don’t expect the fight against corruption to be smooth. You recall what happened in Mr Kamau’s case. But our investigations are professional and we don’t work at the behest of anybody,” he said.
Mr Michael Kamau is the suspended Transport Secretary who was last week charged with corruption.
According to Mr Mubea, it was ironical that when EACC or the DPP recommends closure of a matter, the commission is not accused of working for someone. “These accusations only emerge when our recommendations are not favourable to certain individuals,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr Mubea said the way EACC has been investigating each count and forwarding its recommendation in piecemeal should not be misinterpreted as witchhunt.
Regarding the allegations by Mrs Ngilu against the EACC, Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko appeared to suggest that the suspended cabinet secretary’s criticisms were misplaced.
“EACC has investigated and submitted files to me with their recommendations. I am now seized of the file. It will not just be in Mrs Ngilu’s case, but in all the cases I will make an independent decision based on the threshold of the evidence in the file and guided by the law. That is what the Constitution says about my office and I have said that before. I cannot, however, comment on the allegations people make against the EACC,” Mr Tobiko said
According to Mrs Ngilu, she will not be silenced even if Mr Tobiko concurs with the commission to prosecute her.
“There is no doubt that the events of the last 78 days have been aimed at smearing my character, reputation and long public service career. What stands between my detractors and me is the truth,” she said.
Mrs Ngilu challenged the anti-graft body to name the beneficiaries of the disputed land in Karen that is the source of her tribulations.
“EACC claims that ‘top state officers were beneficiaries of this public’ land parcel. I would like to believe that EACC’s professional and thorough investigations have unearthed these ‘top state officers’ who were beneficiaries of this ‘public land,” she charged.
“Can the EACC share with the public who these officers are? Why hasn’t the EACC recommended that these officers who are beneficiaries of a purported criminal allocation be prosecuted alongside me? What possible explanation can the EACC give Kenyans for not disclosing such a material fact? Is this part of the selective approach EACC is being accused of or are they protecting certain people?”
DISTORTING THE TRUTH
Mrs Ngilu also accused the commission of distorting the truth about the ownership of the Karen land. EACC says the land is public land but Mrs Ngilu holds that it is private land.
According to Mrs Ngilu, the land in question was originally allocated in 1919 to one G.B. Norman for a period of 999 years which is still valid. The current ownership is disputed and subject to a High Court case in which Muchanga Investments Ltd has filed a civil suit against a company called Telesource.
“It is strange that EACC would like Kenyans to believe that it is during my tenure as cabinet secretary that the land was doubly allocated to one Horatius da Gama Rose of Muchanga Investments and Jos Konzolo of Telesource.Com Limited. This double allocation occurred long before I became Cabinet Secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development,” she said.
In any case, Mrs Ngilu argues that in one of his recent determinations on whether an officer could face trial on a matter that was already before the courts, Mr Tobiko returned a verdict that he could not progress until matters in court are determined.
“Why is the EACC continuing with this recommendation as if this matter is independent of the one in court? Is EACC seeking to prejudice the courts in favour of one party in the ownership dispute in the guise of fighting corruption?” asked Mrs Ngilu.
In response to the agency’s recommendation that she be charged for double allocations of the 134-acre Karen land, Mrs Ngilu said in a detailed press statement that the people who are allegedly manipulating the commission to investigate her are “the cartels and middle persons in land transactions”.
The Karen land, which is situated on Hillcrest Road and Southern Bypass, is estimated to be worth about Sh8 billion.
“Perhaps late in the day, it is now dawning on me that I might have not understood my brief well when I accepted to take up the responsibility for the Ministry of Lands. I now realise that I was not supposed to engage in robust reforms and create open and transparent systems to avail services to all and sundry. I should have known that cutting these people (cartels) out as we cleaned the registries would return to haunt me,” she said.
EACC had on June 5 recommended to the Director of Public Prosecutions that Mrs Ngilu be charged with “various criminal offences” in respect of “allegations that top state officers were beneficiaries of public land parcel number LR 3586/3/IR 31187 with double allocation to Horatious Da Gama Rose of M/S Muchanga Investment Limited and Jos Konzolo of M/S Telesource.”
The Karen land, she said, was not among the original allegations against her in the EACC dossier that President Uhuru Kenyatta handed to Parliament on March 26 during his State of the Nation address.
“When the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) included my name in the so-called “List of Shame” tabled in Parliament by the President in his State of the Nation address on March 26, 2015, only two allegations in that report were made against me. These were in relation to Waitiki land in Mombasa and the State House Crescent land in Nairobi,” Mrs Ngilu says in the statement.
According to Mrs Ngilu, investigations on the Karen land were against officials in the Lands Ministry, not against her. She said the Karen land allegations appear to have been an afterthought thrown in against her in the commission’s letter of April 2, 2015 inviting her to go to their offices to respond to the allegations.
Of the original allegations against her, Mrs Ngilu has been cleared of wrongdoing in relation to the Waitiki land in Mombasa and we “await the third stage of the EACC drama on the issue of the State House Crescent plot.”
According to the suspended cabinet secretary, what EACC is doing is well calculated action to achieve certain malicious results against her.
“The manner in which the EACC is working and being directed to work, betrays the very spirit of its founding principles and the statute that gives it its legal clothing. Needless to say, the EACC is fast proving the naysayers that it is not only incompetent, but also fraught with malice and evidently, politically driven in its fight against corruption,” she said.
Mrs Ngilu is among the five cabinet secretaries who were suspended to facilitate investigations into corruption allegations against them.
This was after President Kenyatta handed to parliament an EACC dossier on March 26 during his State of the Nation address. Other cabinet secretaries who were affected by that are Felix Koskei (Agriculture), Kazungu Kambi (Labour), Michael Kamau (Transport) and Davis Chirchir (Energy).
Also suspended were principal secretaries Mutea Iringo (Defence), Nduva Muli (Transport), Patrick Omutia (Mining) and James Teko (Water). Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia was also suspended but later dismissed before the 60-day period elapsed. The National Assembly this week rejected the nomination of Interior PS Dr Monica Juma to replace Mr Kimemia as Secretary to the Cabinet.
Deputy President William Ruto’s chief of staff Marianne Kittany was also among the casualties. Of the suspended five cabinet secretaries, only Mr Kamau has been charged with colluding with officials of the Kundan Singh Construction Company, which was building the Kamukuywa-Kaptama-Kapsokwony-Kimilili road.