The supplementary budget scandal continues with reports from Marsgroup (who broke the initial scandal) that the even the “revised” budget numbers don’t add up. Meanwhile, the House Committee has given the revised numbers a clean bill, Uhuru has taken to cracking jokes about the issue, and the usual suspects are looking for the bogeyman (read people who are out to finish Uhuru).
So in my two days in Nairobi I managed to score some good background gossip/story-behind-the-story info. I love the stuff just falls into my lap there
Apparently, this is a scam that has been going on for years by a cabal at Treasury in collusion with accounting officers at various Ministries and has little to do with Uhuru (hopefully the forensic audit that’s been ordered by the Parliament Committee will reveal that). Basically the civil servants, many of whom have been in their positions for years, would inflate budget numbers quietly and then generate fake invoices later on to cover their tracks. Biggest culprits are the Office of the President (according to my sources corruption central in govt) and the Ministry of Education.
The story only broke because someone at Treasury is leaking this information in terms of the raw numbers and the cooking to Mwalimu Mati. The reason for the leaks is unclear, although local papers & gossip rags point to frustration among junior budget officials as a result of the re-appointment of the Director of Budget, David Ngugi after he had reached retirement age. According to the tabloid Weekly Citizen, Ngugi boasts of being close to Kibaki ever since Kibaki’s days at Minister of Finance (I can’t even find a bio or pic of the guy!).
And for those wondering why MPs lack the capacity to do math, my source tells me that the budget MPs see did not contain the raw details that enabled Mars to break the story – what they see is a cooked version (not sure how true this is).
In any event, I hope the story continues to grow legs and doesn’t fade into the infamous siasi ya kumalizana.
It does point to a really huge challenge for trying to address corruption in Kenya. We often focus on the political leaders as the root of all evil, but as someone pointed out to me the other day in the last few years we have had a change of leaders but not a change of government – the well-oiled corruption machinery at below the PS level is still very much intact from Moi days and any new leader who really wants to address corruption in Kenya will have to tackle this monster. Does anyone have the courage to do so?
In the meantime, please lend Marsgroup Kenya your support – at the risk of being hyperbolic – I think they are really fighting a lonely fight out there and doing the hard work that many Kenyans don’t want to do.