By Samuel Karanja
President Kenyatta has bowed to a chorus of demands for the embattled minister’s resignation. The pressure came from within his own support base with the perception that Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru had become a political liability.
Ms. Waiguru resigned on Saturday afternoon following months of sustained pressure over corruption allegations in her ministry.
Ms. Waiguru becomes the first CS in the Jubilee coalition to resign.
She cited “doctor’s advice” as the major reason for her abrupt departure from the plum perch in one of the best funded ministries.
She quit only 15 days after she told reporters outside Parliament that she would not leave.
After months of resistance, she caved in Saturday and left, making the dramatic announcement at a press conference.
She said that following sustained attacks by “mischievous parties” on both her person and her family, her health had deteriorated with her doctor asking her to “take time off”.
“I have therefore, following my doctor’s advice — who is sitting next to me — requested his Excellency the President to relieve me of the responsibilities of the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning and should he find it fit, to accord me such lighter duties as he shall deem appropriate,” she said, her voice tinged with emotion.
“I wish to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the President for giving me an opportunity to serve in this critical ministry, the team at the ministry that has made my work easier and the many Kenyans who have supported me in this difficult time.
“Though the experience has had devastating effects on my health, it has not killed my spirit,” she said.
Sources in the presidency indicated that as Ms. Waiguru faced sustained pressure to resign from her critics, the accusations against her became a political liability to Jubilee.
Cord leader Raila Odinga has been one of Ms. Waiguru’s key critics.
But even within government, sources told the Sunday Nation, there have been those who have questioned why she was quick to celebrate successes in her ministry.
They cite staging spectacular performances as she did when President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the slum upgrading projects in Kibera or the Huduma centers, but would not take responsibility and step aside when theft, fraud and corruption were reported in her ministry.
For weeks, it had become apparent that it was more a matter of when and not if she would resign, according to a government insider.
There was also agreement among President Kenyatta’s close allies that her departure should not be at a time when the Opposition and the media were calling for it, to avoid the perception that it was forced rather than voluntary.
A State House source told the Sunday Nation that Ms. Waiguru spoke on the phone with the President Saturday morning and said the pressure was taking a toll on her health.
Ms. Waiguru began weathering storms at the beginning of the year with the first revelations that something was amiss at the National Youth Service, a department that fell under her.
She first said that no money had been lost but investigations by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations revealed that at least Sh791 million had been stolen in fraudulent deals.
On Saturday, in a press conference held in the ministry’s boardroom on the 11th floor of Nairobi’s Harambee House, Ms. Waiguru restated her public service credentials.
She defended her record but admitted that mistakes were made under her watch with officers in some departments and agencies abusing their discretion and misappropriating public funds.
“I sincerely regret these occurrences and trust that the relevant government agencies will conclude their investigations and bring these matters to a speedy conclusion,” she said.
Dressed in a red jacket and a black dress with white polka dots, Ms. Waiguru declined to take questions from journalists and left followed by about a dozen aides who had accompanied her to the press conference.
She blamed her woes on a “frenzied but organized attack on” her character”.
“A diabolical machinery has been applied incessantly by misinformed and mischievous parties to intimidate, harass and discredit both my professional and personal integrity, anything and everything has been fair game, including attacks on my children.”
The ministry’s PS Peter Mangiti and National Youth Service director Nelson Githinji have been charged with attempting to interfere with investigation into the loss of funds.
Other officials and business people have also been charged.
According to sources, there was apprehension at high levels of government that the testimony that would emerge from those cases could be potentially damaging and embarrassing.
There was also concern that few, including in the international community, would take claims that the government was serious about tackling corruption while Ms. Waiguru was in office.
Ms. Waiguru hit out at people she claimed campaigned against her, including “some politicians with dubious characters and a litany of misconduct (who) also joined the fray to achieve nefarious intentions”.
“The fight against corruption eventually mutated into the fight against Anne Waiguru with the focus shifting from the real purveyors of graft. This whole experience has caused a lot of pain to me personally and my family, however though painful, it has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on what inspired me to join the public service over 10 years ago,” she said.
She outlined her achievements in the ministry, saying on her watch, 40 one-stop-shop public service centers known as Huduma Centers had been opened in 36 counties and had served more than five million people.
She also cited her input in steering the devolution process, adding that with her team, they managed to ensure a smooth transfer of functions and resources to counties.
Her ministry, she said, was also responsible for the design and rollout of the Uwezo Fund, which gives interest free credit to youth and women.
The ministry, she said, had also won 13 awards for public efficiency.
On the National Youth Service, Ms. Waiguru said she had overseen its transformation “into a premier institution advancing the transformational agenda of the youth in the context of national development”.
She added that the recruitment had risen from a paltry 4,000 youth annually to 21,000 in a span of 18 months since its restructuring.
She also described herself as having served as a “deacon and mentor” for the youth at her church.
She noted that in all her undertakings as a civil servant, she had observed “apolitical and highly professional” stance and that at no time had questions been raised about her professional or personal ethics and integrity.
Source: The Nation