The arrest of the Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o sent shockwaves across the country on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, leaving many scratching their heads and questioning the motives behind the move.
Was it a genuine pursuit of justice, fueled by concrete evidence of financial wrongdoing?
Or was it a politically motivated witch hunt, designed to silence a vocal critic and undermine her crucial role as the nation’s fiscal watchdog?
To find out, let us determine exactly why she was arrested.
Margaret Nyakang’o Charges
Nyakang’o was charged on Tuesday with falsely defrauding Ms. Claudia Mueni Mutungi of Sh29 million.
Ms. Nyakang’o, along with 10 others who were not present in court, was also charged with operating a Sacco without a license and forgery.
Appearing before Mombasa Chief Magistrate Alex Ithuku, Ms. Nyakang’o denied the charges and was released on a Sh2 million bond with a surety of a similar amount or an alternative of Sh500,000 cash bail.
In an alleged attempt to defraud, Ms. Nyakang’o is accused, along with others, of pretending to engage in a legitimate investment product, FEP Sacco Advantage (Mavuno), and falsely extracting Sh29 million from Ms. Mutungi.
Furthermore, the accused is alleged to have participated in financial transactions related to FEP Sacco Society Limited without possessing a valid license from the Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority.
These offenses are said to have occurred on various dates between November 1, 2019, and May 1, 2020, at an undisclosed location within the country.
Adding to the list of charges, Ms. Nyakang’o is also accused of forging Ms. Mutungi’s signature on the FEP Sacco membership application form on December 2, 2019, at FEP Sacco Society Limited in Mombasa, with the intention to defraud and without lawful authority.
Her side of the story
Moments after news of her arrest broke out on Tuesday morning, and even before she was presented in court, Nyakang’o attempted to clarify the circulating reports.
Speaking via a WhatsApp message to colleagues, Nyakango directly addressed the confusion that she was ‘erroneously listed as a Sacco director.’
“Anyone knows what is going on here? What complaint? Please fell free to inbox,” one member named Catherine asked in her message sent to the group.
“Hi Catherine, it is a storm in a tea-cup. I was erroneously listed as a Sacco director, and that is the crux of the matter” Nyakang’o replied at 11:10 am.
This direct rebuttal sharply contradicts initial reports depicting Nyakang’o entangled in financial misconduct.
Her message exudes calm defiance, hinting not at the guilt of a criminal but at the frustration of someone wrongly ensnared in the schemes of others.
Some Kenyans perceive Nyakang’o’s arrest as a veiled attempt to muzzle her.
Her recent exposure of financial mismanagement in state departments and county governments could suggest that powerful figures threatened by her scrutiny could be pulling the strings.
The timing looks too convenient, occurring just weeks after she publicly questioned the legitimacy of a Sh15 billion budget allocation.
On the other hand, others have interpreted the accusations through a political lens.
Whispers within political corridors suggest that Nyakang’o, appointed by Kenyatta in 2019, is seen by some as a loyal pawn in the former president’s camp, a thorn in Ruto’s side.
The 2016 complaint, predating her appointment, further muddies the waters, hinting at a potential administrative error or a deliberate attempt to implicate her in a past matter.
This raises questions about the robustness of record-keeping systems and the potential for procedural errors to ensnare even the most prominent figures.
Did a simple administrative blunder trigger this cascade of events? Or is there more to the story than meets the eye?