Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was questioned for the second time on Tuesday by EACC detectives looking into claims of massive theft at the county government.
Mr Waititu, according to the EACC’s Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak, is being investigated for the alleged irregularly awarding of tenders worth Sh588 million to companies associated with him and his immediate family members.
On Tuesday, officers of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission interrogated the governor on allegations of fraudulent acquisition of public funds, conflict of interest and money laundering in a scheme said to have seen millions of shillings stolen from the County Treasury.
Mr Waititu was questioned for close to eight hours – he was pictured leaving Integrity Centre at about 6am after reporting at about 9am as ordered last week by the crime busters.
After the session, he reiterated his innocence, saying no money has been looted under his watch and that he runs a real estate company where he and his daughter Monica Njeri Ndung’u are signatories.
Ms Ndung’u has been termed a person of interest in the investigation.
The streetwise politician has for the last few months been grappling with allegations of presiding over a corrupt administration that has been milking the County Treasury dry and using the loot to spruce up his lifestyle, mostly through acquisition of properties in Nairobi and Kiambu.
Mr Waititu, who successfully shifted his political base from Nairobi to Kiambu, has been in the spotlight over acquisition of multi-million shilling properties in Nairobi’s central business district, notably Delta Hotel and Jamii Bora House, and other properties in Runda and Migaa.
The EACC is looking at 35 properties, which include luxury mansions that the governor is constructing in Runda, Delta and a luxurious tourist hotel in Naivasha, to establish whether they were acquired through corruption or through proceeds of the vice.
Mr Waititu’s critics claim he used money stolen from the county.
Last week, detectives picked the county chief from his house at Kencom Estate along Kiambu Road after conducting a search for hours – they left at around 5:30pm.
Last Wednesday, searches were conducted at the county offices and homes of the governor’s family members, directors of private companies and 10 senior Kiambu employees.
The anti-graft agency said “valuable evidence relevant to the investigations was recovered”.
Fifteen other county officials are targeted in the investigations.
On Monday and Tuesday last week, some of the current and former county officials appeared before the EACC and recorded statements over the alleged graft.
Mr Waititu and his Chief Officer for Finance Faith Njeri Harrison have so far been granted anticipatory bail by Kiambu Senior Resident Magistrate Brian Khaemba.
Amid the investigations, Mr Twalib issued a statement last week, saying preliminary investigations showed contractors also paid kickbacks to senior county officials and their companies or relatives through proxies.
The EACC boss has reportedly instructed the agency’s head of investigations, Mr Abdi Mohamud, to write to the managers of banks with the accounts of individuals under the probe.
The detectives are hoping to trace financial statements of at least 50 accounts as they seek to strengthen evidence against the county chief and his would-be accomplices.
After he was released by the EACC following his arrest last Thursday, Mr Waititu told journalists in his Kiambu office that he had done no wrong.
He later blamed the politics around the Tanga Tanga and Kieleweke factions for his woes; over the weekend, Mr Waititu said he was being fought for supporting Deputy President William Ruto’s bid to become president in 2022.
He noted, however, that no amount of intimidation will cause him to back Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga.
He also said, “I should not be blamed for the issuing of tenders because I do not sit in the tender committee. Let it be investigated because they have the documents … they will tell us if there were faults,” he said when asked if he had been doing business with the county.
He did not address the allegations of theft in the county.
The abrasive politician has also maintained that he a rich man who, together with his family, has been in business long enough to his acquire vast wealth.
Three weeks ago, during a funeral at Mburiria in Kiambu Sub-county, the governor shocked mourners by saying people “can commit suicide” if they learn of his riches, which he said are mainly hidden in real estate.
“When I bought those houses, I was not even the governor. It was only recently that they learned that I own houses. There are so many things they do not know about me … next time they should ask me to take them around so that they can see my wealth,” he said. “I will show them …. and some will commit suicide.”
Mr Waititu has also been on the EACC’ radar over questionable expenditure by county on programmes such as “Kaa Sober”, which cost more than Sh2 million per day and lacked the approval of the county assembly or the Cabinet, contrary to the Public Finance Management Act.
His arrest came a day after the Kiambu assembly hurriedly passed a supplementary budget in which it approved hundred of millions of shillings for the controversial programme.
The decision, which also saw the annual county budget raised from Sh15.6 billion to Sh16.9 billion, was widely seen as a scheme to sanitise the controversial expenditure.
The county treasury proposed to increase recurrent expenditure from Sh9,595,652,954 to Sh11,119,365,158, explaining that the bulk of the increase would be for initiatives including “Kaa Sober”.
Some Sh722 million was allocated to the rehabilitation programme, Sh96 million for the wages of enforcement officers and Sh540 million for the wages of casual workers, according to the supplementary budget report prepared by the finance committee chaired by Kiuu MCA Dan Ngugi.
The programme was started in February 2018 and the governor reported that beneficiaries numbering 6,500 earned Sh400 daily for manual labour.
They collected garbage, unclogged drainage systems and cleared bushes, jobs ordinarily done by specific county employees.
It was alleged, however, that during rallies and on public holidays, people in the programme were ferried in buses to deal with Mr Waititu’s critics, a matter that was reported to police.