Thursday, September 6th, 2018
A parliamentary committee has raised questions over possible collusion between top managements of profitable parastatals under the Ministry of Energy with private auditors hired to check their books.
This is meant to give them a clean bill of health at the time of the scrutiny of their financial accounts, the National Assembly Public Investments Committee (PIC) said Thursday.
The committee chairman Abdulswamad Nassir questioned why agencies such as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) have always found some missing links in the financial operations of the companies while auditors give them high scores on financial probity.
Mr Nassir said the committee has raised these concerns with DCI boss George Kinoti, seeking investigations over possible conspiracy between the parastatals’ managements and the auditors.
“It is suspicious that all these state corporations audited by the private firms are always given a clean bill of health every successive year yet those audited by the Auditor General have issues flagged down against them,” Mr Nassir said at Parliament Buildings.
“We want the DCI to look into how these audit processes are conducted because it cannot be that barely after a parastatal is audited and cleared, investigators unearth criminal activities in their operations and take top management to court as was the case with Kenya Power,” the Mvita MP said.
Mr Nassir singled out the case of Kenya Power which was given a clean bill of health by private auditors only for top managers of the state corporation to be later arrested and charged in court over massive rot in the company.
The office of the Auditor-General, known for unearthing massive financial irregularities in the operations of the State firms, is by law allowed to engage the services of private firms to help it in the audit of some parastatals on its behalf.
The office routinely contracts reputable firms such as Deloitte to audit National Oil Corporation and KETRACO and PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC) to look into the accounts of Kenya Power, KenGen and GDC.
Keiyo North MP James Murgor has been accused by his siblings of denying them a huge chunk of property worth millions of shillings left by their father who died in 2006.
Their father, Mr William Murgor, was a renowned Kalenjin politician and long-time MP for Kerio Central.
He left behind a vast estate that comprises acres of land and prime plots in Eldoret and Iten towns.
However, the Keiyo North MP is facing accusations from some of his sisters who have said in court that they had been sidelined in the distribution of the wealth.
The hearing of the case filed by Ms Enid Cheptanui Murgor started at the Eldoret High Court Judge Hellen Omondi on Tuesday.
According to documents presented in court, he died from Alzheimer’s disease on September 28, 2006 aged 87.
He was married to five wives, Ms Soti Murgor who had five children, three of whom are deceased, Rosa Kimoi Murgor (nine children), Rosalina Murgor, (six), Anna Murgor (eight but one deceased) and Philomena Murgor (one).
In her submissions to the court, Ms Enid, who is the daughter of Mrs Anna Murgor, said their father’s property had been distributed discriminatingly by her stepbrother, Dr Murgor, adding that he had favoured his family.
The court was told that a family meeting held between February 1 and 3, 2011 where the distribution of the property was done did not involve all family members.
According to minutes of the meeting presented in court, those present agreed to have commercial plots shared among the sons while the 11 residential plots were to be shared among the daughters.
The daughters were also not supposed to sell the plots to outsiders, if at all.
The daughters were also expected to share 30 acres of their father’s land in Chepsigot. The remaining 20, identified as a swampy area, was to go to Dr Murgor.
Ms Enid told the court that the proposed distribution was not in tandem with the Constitution of Kenya 2010 whereby it favoured the children of Rosa Kimoi Murgor – one of the widows.
In her application she also said the five surviving widows had not been catered for appropriately, thereby subjecting them to poverty and poor health.
On Thursday, Mr Francis Murgor told the court that the distribution of the property had been done as per the will of their father.
He challenged the claims by his sisters that they were isolated in the sharing of the property.
The government has come up with standards for use by millers to blend maize and wheat flour.
A Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) technical team on Thursday completed drafting the guidelines.
The Ministry of Agriculture wants all flour blended by crops like sorghum, millet, and sweet potato to make it more nutritious. The blended flour may hit the shelves in November.
BIG FOUR AGENDA
Flour Blending Initiative is part of Kenya’s “Big 4” Plan aimed at contributing towards food security, improve nutrition and increase employment opportunities in Kenya through flour blending based on under-utilised high value foods by 2022.
“This multi-sectoral approach has been designed through a consultative process that targets a high-impact approach aimed at integrating and securing arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) in contributing towards national food basket,” Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said.
Each flour sold will have 10 percent minimum content of the underutilised but high nutrient crops like sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes.
The rules were finalised at a retreat that ended Thursday in Machakos County, also attended by experts and shareholders from both Processed Cereals and Legume Technical Committee and Roots and Tubers Technical Committee.
“Three of the six standards are for wheat and the remainder for maize flour,” Ms Jane Wambugu, who is in charge of the initiative, said.
After they are gazetted, millers will be compelled to blend their wheat flour with sorghum, cassava, and sweet potatoes. Maize flour will be blended with cassava, millet and sorghum.
The blended flours will be prepared through a mixture of two different milled food crops or their flours.
It may also be obtained by blending grains before milling, according to the guidelines.
No food colour will be allowed and millers will have to retain the colour of the grains blended in each floor.
The food should also be free from insects’ parts, fungi or dirt and free from musty or other objectionable odour that may render it unfit for human consumption.
In addition, labelling for each package should be legibly and indelibly marked with name of product such as “Blended wheat and sorghum flour or Blended sorghum and wheat flour’.
Other labelling requirements are the statement “for human consumption”, country of origin and declaration of the percentage composition of the blend.
The date of manufacture and expiry date with instructions for disposal of used package should also be printed on the packing material.
The standards also require millers to pack their blended flour in food grade packaging materials.
And where sacks are used, they should be clean, sturdy and strongly sewn or sealed.
The first name shall be that of the dominant flour in the blend and name and address of the manufacturer/packer/importer.
Mombasa County has stepped up efforts to cut down the consumption of a popular stimulant by targeting traders with hefty taxes.
The county has increased offloading fees for “muguka” leaves from Sh28,000 to Sh38,000 for a seven-tonne lorry and above, Sh20,000 up from Sh14,000 for vehicles below seven tonnes, and Sh6,400 up from Sh5,000 for a canter or a three-tonne lorry.
More than 2,000 traders, farmers and other stakeholders, including transporters, are up in arms over the increase, which is contained in the 2018/2019 Finance Bill.
“Since the (ban) motion did not pass, we decided to use the Finance Bill to control the sale and consumption of muguka,” nominated ward representative Fatma Kushe told Nation.
County communication director Richard Chacha defended the bill saying it will discourage sale and consumption of muguka.
“We want to discourage the chewing of muguka because of its health effects. It’s not that we want money, it’s a prohibitive measure. There’s public participation on Saturday where anyone with reservations can air their views,” Mr Chacha said.
Last month, an effort to ban the trade was thwarted after a section of the ward representatives opposed the move.
The assembly’s Health Committee, led by deputy chairperson Ms Kushe, said the product has negatively impacted the health and well-being of the youth in the region.
They claimed that the drug, derived from the “muguka” plant and consumed as fresh leaves, is also threatening marriages because of cases of absentee and irresponsible husbands.
More than 100 structures at Tononoka market where the business is carried out were demolished.
Motorists queued for hours on Thursday as one of the most severe and bizarre fuel shortages hit many parts of the country.
By last evening, National Oil in Chuka town, which was the only fuel station left with the commodity, was selling a litre of super petrol at Sh150.
In Nairobi, most filling stations had run dry on Tuesday evening and the few that had fuel witnessed long queues leading into them.
In the morning, only the Total filling station on Waiyaki Way was operational. Motorists queued along one lane of the dual carriage way leading into the station as they waited to fill up their tanks.
In Machakos, some parts of the county were also hit by the shortage.
A spot check by the Nation in Kangundo and Tala towns revealed that a number of fuel stations had run dry, with those which still had the precious commodity, mainly diesel, experiencing long queues of motorists seeking to fill up.
Kenol Machakos proprietor Boniface Mutunga revealed that his station had no fuel at all and they were waiting for suppliers to deliver the commodity.
Kobil owner Gloria Kioko said that they had been left with little fuel and the lines were long, adding that the stock they had would run out by mid morning.
At Shell filling station, the manager, Joseph Mutuku, said that they also had been left with little fuel and that they no longer had diesel.
In Nairobi, petroleum distributors began to transport fuel from the Nairobi depot, despite the ongoing strike by the independent fuel dealers.
Companies such as Astrol, Vivo Energy, National Oil, Oil Libya and Kenol Kobil began loading and transporting the fuel amid heavily armoured police security.
Officers from the General Service Unit took over the small area leading to the depot, dispersing the independent fuel truck drivers and traders in the vicinity, thus preventing possible confrontations.
The drivers had since Monday camped at the depot and prevented trucks from being loaded with fuel.
This was in an attempt to force the government to rescind its decision to implement the International Monetary Fund’s directive to impose tax on fuel.
On Wednesday evening, the Energy Regulatory Commission suspended the licences of the independent truckers because of spearheading the strike.
Kenya Pipeline Company Eldoret depot manager Antony Sang told the Nation that operations had normalised after delays experienced earlier in the week as a result of system upgrade.
In most petrol stations within Eldoret town, operations were normal.
Vihiga Senator George Khaniri threatened to organise demonstrations in his county if the 16 percent value-added tax imposed on petroleum products is not reversed.
At the coast, commuters will now pay more after fares were hiked due to increased fuel prices.
Rickshaw owners said due to low profits, they had to hike the fares.
Reported by Alex Njeru, Macharia Mwangi, Mercy Koskey, Diana Kimanzi, Joyce Mwihaki Derick Luvega, Elizabeth Ojina, Agewa Magut, Gastone Valusi, Dennis Lubanga, Stephen Muthini, Winnie Atieno and Diana Mutheu
The Nation article highlighting the skills gap predicament that our graduates entering the job market face should make us find solutions to the issue.
The revelation that most of the 800,000 such graduates cannot deliver on their job requirements, therefore compelling companies to conduct in-house training before fully absorbing them, should jolt us to action.
It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Education launched a career policy for all universities to adopt in order to facilitate their students’ interaction with the job market, augment connections with alumni in the external industry and mentor them to create more job opportunities.
But much as the idea is far-sighted and timely, it risks becoming the usual one-sided affair if industries do not join hands to actively participate in moulding our students.
For a very long time, the aspect of producing skilled graduates has been left to the universities and the industries only wait to receive an off-the-peg human resource capital from the institutions. But that should not be the case.
Akin to equally placing the responsibility of raising a child between both parents, bringing up a skilled graduate for the market should be the responsibility of both the universities and the industry.
Yet, not many local industries bother with that important aspect.
Times have changed, and the moment to re-examine the relationship with an intention of making it symbiotic has come.
Industries should prioritise lasting partnerships with universities by facilitating and offering additional opportunities for career counselling sessions, attachments, cooperative education, mentorships, practicum, internships and apprenticeship, just to mention a few, to the students.
And that should be done at affordable application fees or, possibly, free of charge.
That way, the students, industry (in the private and public sectors) and universities stand to gain as they will quickly realise global competitiveness.
The students stand to get exposure to practical problems and earn self-assurance as well as develop an expanded network of associates, mentors and professionals during internships.
That would increase their attractiveness to potential employers and effortlessly convert them into employees who can be immediately productive.
Curricula will also be designed to meet the market needs. In the long run, it saves the cost of conducting in-house training.
The University of Nairobi was the first to launch a local career fair, which will see students linked to industry players.
I hope more industries will consider partnering with the UoN and other universities in this noble venture.
ABOOK BRIAN, PhD student of communication studies, via email.
Counties in arid regions, considered disadvantaged and therefore qualified for extra financing through the Equalisation Fund, have opposed plans to increase their number from the current 14 to a proposed 34.
Their opposition exposes the intricacies behind an ongoing battle for control of billions of shillings disbursed to disadvantaged counties through the Exchequer to cushion them and accelerate their development.
On Thursday, Deputy President William Ruto weighed in on the debate, pleading with the aggrieved counties not to move to court to fight the proposal.
This is after National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said the regions originally targeted for the fund would move to court to challenge a decision by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) to increase the number of beneficiaries.
The Garissa Town MP, who termed the move unfair, said they will also seek redress at the Supreme Court.
“I am shocked to see some counties have been included to be part of the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (Asal) counties. I am disappointed with CRA who have expanded the list to 34. There is no way a village or a slum can be given a share of the funds,” he said.
Mr Duale mentioned Kiambu, Meru, Nyeri and Tharaka Nithi to be among the new additions.
But Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi told off Mr Duale, saying they were not part of the conference by default but by design.
Mr Ruto asked the counties to engage the CRA in dialogue.
“I want to ask those with a different opinion to engage CRA and I am sure they are willing to take suggestion. We can have the matter addressed within the constitutional parameters. I do not think it is wise for anyone to go to court,” Mr Ruto said.
He said the government will make the resources available to improve the underdeveloped and marginalised counties.
Mr Ruto said the national government will continue to inject resources to the Asal counties.
He said Sh12.4 billion of the Equalisation Fund has been deposited, with Sh4.7 billion being included in the current budget.
“When we began devolution in the 2013, ASAL counties received Sh141 billion but by last year they had received Sh181 billion after we increased the share,” he said.
Following the review by CRA on government allocation, Mr Ruto said that all the 34 counties will benefit from the funds in the next three years.
Council of Governors chairman Josphat Nanok said the implementation of the Equalisation Fund is questionable.
He said that it is going to be a major challenge for basic needs of the Asal counties to be addressed if a proper implementation plan is not put in place.
“We should go by the government plan in its big four agenda and not allow individual counties to come up with their own plans,” he said.
He proposed that to enable Asal counties benefit from the fund without depending on the National Treasury, there is need to develop legislation or formation of an independent authority to implement it.
Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, who hosted the event, said lack of proper management of the fund has seen the counties fail to achieve the desired impact.
“The funds are supposed to fund basic needs but we have seen cases of the government putting up project at the same place where the county has implemented the same resulting to lose of focus,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ruto called upon the leaders to use the conference as an avenue to shape the present and future.
He said the one million acres Galana Kulalu Irrigation project in Kilifi and Tana River counties is a perfect example how irrigation farming in Asal regions can help the government achieve the development agenda.
The Deputy President said Mwache Dam in Kwale and Sh42 billion Thwake Dam in Makueni and Kitui are some of the projects the government is undertaking to improve the counties.
“The national government will contribute Sh500 million and the EU Sh350 million to assist Asal counties,” he said.
He revealed that the government conflicted with Uganda during planning for the oil pipeline route, which was changed to Lamu-Isiolo-Moyale route in order to develop marginalised regions.
Police yesterday increased security for Mr Michael Oyamo, the only suspect arrested so far for the murder of Ms Sharon Otieno, who was abducted on Monday night together with Nation journalist Barrack Oduor.
On Wednesday, detectives produced him in a Homa Bay court, but asked for more time to conclude investigations.
He did not take a plea and Homa Bay Deputy Registrar Lester Simiyu allowed the police until Monday to bring him back.
Mr Oyamo, a personal assistant to Migori Governor Okoth Obado, was arrested on Tuesday evening as he prepared to leave for Nairobi, from where he was scheduled to accompany his boss to Rwanda for an agribusiness conference.
Police believe he has more information on the nature of a relationship that existed between Ms Otieno and the governor, as well as the communication he had with the four-member gang that kidnapped Ms Otieno and Mr Oduor.
Mr Obado has denied all links to the murder, only responding to media inquiries through his spokesman, Mr Nicholas Anyuor.
His phones were still off yesterday but the police confirmed he had not left the country even though they did not say whether he would also be questioned.
On Thursday, detectives said they had increased security surveillance for Mr Oyamo to avoid a similar situation to the one in which a prime suspect to the shooting of a former Garissa county official died mysteriously in a police cell in Nairobi.
Nyanza regional DCI boss Michael Barasa confirmed to the Nation that they were holding the suspect in a secure location and said investigators, both from Nairobi and Nyanza, will use the extended time to seal any loopholes before charging him.
Mr Oyamo has already shared crucial details confirming that there had been contact with Ms Otieno, and that they had been in touch for several weeks before she died.
He told the police he had been a go-between Ms Otieno and a politician to try and broker a solution over her pregnancy, according to a DCI source.
Last month, he reportedly delivered cash to Ms Otieno for her upkeep and promised to bring more.
But police were still trying to find out why, if she had accepted the support from the politician, she would still be targeted for murder.
One possible reason, detectives think, was the entry of the journalist in the whole drama.
Still, Mr Oduor said he had gone slow on the story after Mr Oyamo brokered a truce and the woman accepted the deal. Was there a third force involved? Police would want to know.
On the day of the kidnapping, Mr Oyamo had invited Mr Oduor and Ms Otieno to a meeting, initially at Rodi Kopany in Homa Bay County, before changing venues twice and settling for Graca Hotel in Rongo, Migori County.
Why did he change? Mr Oduor, who escaped death narrowly, said that Mr Oyamo appeared wary of certain individuals he did not name.
Still, he arrived late at Graca Hotel, according to a statement Mr Oduor filed with the police on Tuesday, apologised for the delay and whisked them out of the facility.
Later that day, he took the two to a waiting car outside the hotel as the evening darkened. The driver was wearing a baseball cap and a brown jacket.
The man next to him also had a jacket and ushered them in.
He claimed they were going to a secluded venue so that Mr Oyamo could share the politician’s side of the story. They were later joined by two other burly men wearing jeans and jackets.
Some recent incidents have demonstrated the grave danger posed to journalists diligently going about their duties.
The latest is the abduction of a Nation Media Group journalist in Migori County.
Though lucky to be alive after being severely injured in an attack by criminals, the news source he had gone to meet was later found dead.
Two weeks ago, there was an uproar over the arrest of NMG journalists at the Coast for filming the construction site of a hotel in Mombasa County that is suspected to be illegally encroaching on the Indian Ocean.
And the continued bad spell for the journalists includes the recent arrest of a reporter at the offices of a water company in Murang’a County, where a dispute has been raging.
These are not the only incidents in which journalists’ right to gather and disseminate information has been crudely violated.
We must condemn in the strongest terms possible the increasing attacks on journalists in the line of duty.
This interference with their right to do their work also infringes on the right to information.
The Kenya Editors Guild has also condemned the incidents but expressed hope that the criminal justice system will speedily and relentlessly pursue and bring the culprits to book.
The emerging trend, where goons working for some politicians and administrators have attacked journalists, is a clear attempt at intimidating and stopping them from doing their job.
While journalists sometimes make mistakes, those aggrieved by any reporting have recourse to the courts. They can also petition the Complaints Commission of the Media Council of Kenya.
The attacks on journalists are not only criminal and unacceptable but also unconstitutional. Safety of journalists is paramount for an effective independent media capable of serving the public interest.
Deputy President William Ruto’s tour of Migori County today has rekindled divisions in the cosmopolitan region and talks of 2022 politics.
Mr Ruto will only visit the minority Kuria community in what is dubbed as development tour, but largely seen as a key strategy to woo the over 70,000 voters from the community that have broken ranks on the ballot with the majority in the ODM stronghold.
Preparations were in top gear to welcome Mr Ruto, with his visit expected to cover Kuria East and Kuria West constituencies.
Area legislators, Mr Marwa Kitayama and Mr Mathias Robi, both elected on Jubilee party ticket, have been mobilising supporters to receive Mr Ruto.
According to the leaders, Mr Ruto will open the Kuria East CDF offices and the regional police headquarters in Kegonga before attending a funds drive to help boda boda riders from the constituency to buy over 100 motorbikes.
In Kuria West, Mr Ruto will commission Sh350 million World Bank funded Isebania Water Project started in 2016 through Lake Victoria South Water Services (LVSWS) to draw water from River Hibwa at Sorore centre, Kuria West constituency. The project can produce over 30,000m3.
He will also attend a funds drive in aid of Masaba Secondary School.
But Mr Kitayama downplayed the perception that Mr Ruto’s visit is part of the 2022 politics, insisting the meeting was purely for development.
“The visit is not about politics right now or in 2022, he is visiting Migori for development,” Mr Kitayama said.
The MP, who is seen as the de facto leader of the Kuria community, has in the past openly campaigned for Mr Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid and said the community will vote for him.
A month ago, when Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula was campaigning for his 2022 bid at Kegonga, Mr Kitayama caused a stir when he told him and other leaders that the Kuria vote is reserved for Ruto.
During the repeat presidential elections, Kuria region voted despite six other constituencies dominated by ODM skipping the exercise.
In the August presidential poll last year, whose results were nullified by the Supreme Court, President Uhuru Kenyatta garnered 65 percent while National Super Alliance presidential flag-bearer Raila Odinga 34 percent.