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Anti-corruption war dominates Cabinet talks

Irene Githinji @gitshee

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday chaired the first Cabinet meeting in nearly three months  with a clear message that the corruption ogre must be slayed.

Warning Cabinet Secretaries not to expect him to intervene in the investigations of anti-graft agencies, the President told them they would be held responsible for  decisions they make. 

Uhuru is said to have also sent a warning that he will not tolerate anything that undermines or derails the Big Four agenda, the development blueprint on which his legacy depends.

Featuring prominently in the meeting was the restructuring of the scandal-scarred National Youth Service (NYS), which had initially been re-engineered to unlock job opportunities for the youth but was hijacked and milked dry by criminal syndicates involving public official and tenderpreneurs.

NYS will be transformed into a corporate body with a chief executive officer as its head. The Cabinet will have an oversight board to watch over its activities.

Its Supply Chain Management functions will also be cleaned up to ensure sound budgetary and internal audit practices.

Earlier, when presiding over the swearing in of two new Principal secretaries Francis Otieno Owino (Youth Affairs) and Esther Koimett (Transport), Uhuru told them he expects nothing but the “highest degree of integrity and loyalty to the people”.

He said the PS holds the responsibility of all operations in their dockets because they are the principal accounting officers, adding that every government officer must take full responsibility for their actions.

The President instructed Owino to ensure NYS is streamlined, saying it was never meant to be a conduit for enriching a few individuals but an initiative to empower and change the lives of young Kenyans.

A full in-tray awaits Otieno, with the President directing him to resolve all financial and administrative bottlenecks at NYS that hinder it from fulfilling its mandate.

Otieno replaced Lillian Omollo who stepped aside in May, with the then NYS Director General Richard Ndubai to allow probe into alleged loss of Sh9 billion.

Matilda Sakwa was last month appointed to head the NYS.

Public Service Cabinet secretary Margaret Kobia has assured that radical changes will be made at NYS to redeem its tattered image.

She has vowed that no financial scandal will be reported in NYS under her watch and that all corruption loopholes will be sealed to allow it to deliver effectively on its mandate.

Last month, the government stopped the processing and payment of pending bills amounting to over Sh5.6 billion to allow their verification. The bills ran from 2013 to 2017 financial years. 

The new measures saw deployment of new procurement personnel to work with Sakwa and  allow her begin on a clean slate for the 2018/2019 financial year.

The CS cited procurement as the department with the most problems hence the need to bring in  a new crop of officers which necessitated undertaking fresh pre-qualification of suppliers for three months.   

Two weeks ago, Deputy President William Ruto said the reduction of NYS budgetary allocation was unfortunate as it would affect youth empowerment programmes and urged MPs to review their decision to slash the allocation by about Sh9 billion.

Ruto said integrity challenges faced by NYS in the past should not be used to punish the institution.

Other than NYS, the Cabinet meeting deliberated on approval the National Policy to Support Enhancement of County Governments’ Own-Source Revenue and the County Governments’ (Revenue Raising Process) Bill, 2018.

The proposed policy is intended to address challenges counties  encounter in revenue collection, mitigating their negative effects and assisting the Counties to optimise own-sources revenue.

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