President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to reshuffle his cabinet any time now as demands for accountability and decisiveness in fighting corruption from Kenyans increase.
Facing the axe are three Cabinet secretaries as investigations into the Ksh21 billion ($207.38 million) Arror and Kimwarer dams’ scandal continue.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has widened the net in the probe where those culpable in the scandal are targeted.
It is expected that Kenyatta will use his State of the Nation address on Thursday next week to ask those implicated in the scandals to step aside.
This list also includes Principal Secretaries embroiled in various scandals.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, his Agriculture counterpart Mwangi Kiunjuri and Devolution’s Eugene Wamalwa have already been questioned by the DCI over the dams’ scandal.
Rotich is allied to Deputy President William Ruto and has held the docket since his nomination on April 23, 2013.
Another CS allied to DP Ruto is Simon Chelugui who is in charge of the Water Ministry. He has not yet been questioned by detectives but he is a person of interest in the investigations.
Kenyatta’s style of firing government officials
Since Kenyatta assumed office for his second term, many Kenyans have become uncomfortable with high-level corruption with no convictions.
Many prominent personalities accused of embezzling public funds remain in public office with no consequences for the crimes they are accused of committing.
While a few have been moved in mini-reshuffles, only one Cabinet Secretary has been fired for impropriety. And even so, it is on politics and not integrity matters.
Rashid Echesa, the former sports CS was fired after just one year in government becoming the first minister to be outright sacked by the President.
Echesa was DP Ruto’s henchman and in an unlikely style where Kenyatta has in the past re-deployed ministers or relieved them of their duties by asking them to step aside, the president sacked the Sports CS.
However, with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga having cosied to the government, there is a likelihood that a reshuffle will happen.
But, this is not guaranteed since there has been disquiet among members of the ruling party Jubilee who feel that Odinga is a spoiler and has come to disintegrate the party.
Members of parliament allied to Jubilee are calling on the ‘handshake’ that brought Kenyatta and Odinga together to be denounced. This is a muted threat to the president to clean up the house and get rid of Odinga, especially.
According to an author, registered licensed and practising Valuer Kariuki Waweru, most Chinese projects are done on a government to government agreement thus the reshuffle-real or imagined would have no effect whatsoever on the main projects.
Kariuki says that even if the projects are related to transportation and finance or even treasury, nothing much would happen to the China-Kenya projects.
“I think any housekeeping (reshuffle) won’t affect the main projects. A reshuffle will not affect any current or future projects. These projects are not anchored on an individual but on a government that has a life of 5 years.”
In June 2015, China Wu Yi was at the centre of a controversial hospital upgrade project where the Chinese firm was accused of bribing Deputy President William Ruto.
At the time, China Wu Yi Chief executive Officer Liu Hui said they had interacted with the DP because the project is in his home are.
“We made a courtesy call to the Deputy President’s office to brief him on the proposed project at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital mainly because the project is in his home area.”
Hui denied any impropriety adding, “We at no time presented any gift to him. We only showed him designs of the work we intended to do.”
While the conduct of China Wu Yi may have been questioned at the time, the company’s dealings with the DP cannot imperil any projects between the two governments.
China Wu Yi would upgrade the referral hospital with the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) in an Sh17 billion deal.
Effects on big projects, especially Nairobi-Mombasa and Nairobi-Malaba SGR?
However, those that have been negotiated by individual companies would not be safely guaranteed unless it was legal recourse in case of a contractual breach.
“In case a Chinese company agrees to work with a Kenyan one, then the government cannot intervene or interfere. It is only the courts that can handle such a case of contractual abandonment by either party,” adds Kariuki.
In a post-reshuffle scenario, any bilateral cooperation and the foreign relationship remains since the government only changes hands.
For any Chinese company to survive in Kenya, there is a need to avoid political interference or siding with any particular individual as this may spell doom for any projects.
For instance, in August last year, 9 Chinese contractors were arrested in Nairobi with Governor Mike Sonko confirming the arrest of the Chinese nationals and various Kenyans.
The governor said, “We wish to inform the general public especially people residing around Parklands, Westlands and Riverside that we have this morning stopped the construction of the Avic International Building along Chiromo Road and arrested all the Chinese and Kenyan contractors on site for defying the county planning laws by encroaching on the famous Chiromo close public access which is a feeder road to Chiromo lane which feeds Chiromo road and then Waiyaki Way.”
Sonko’s press statement betrayed his intentions since the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is the body mandated to make such announcements.
The nine were later freed on Sh100, 000 cash bail each.
“It is alleged that they paid a substantial under table amount totalling 2 million dollars in cash to the previous administration as protection fee and we should confirm that with the current staff in the building plans approval department bosses who are still with us,” said Sonko.
Sonko’s approach shows that he was making a political statement. He was flexing his muscle and he knew where to hit.