|Ex-Embu Governor Martin Wambora|
By MOSES NJAGIH
Nairobi, Kenya: Embu Governor Martin Wambora made history as the first casualty of devolution when the Senate voted to impeach him late Friday evening.
The embattled Governor was forced out of office in a precedent-setting vote, despite pleading innocent to the procurement irregularities charges facing him.
Mr Wambora was only in office for 10 months following recommendations of the Senate special committee that investigated and found him guilty of three of the five charges preferred against him.
He becomes the first public officer to be removed through impeachment. By the time Wambora was called to address the Senate, the dice appeared to have been cast with nearly all Senators contributing in the Motion, supporting the committee’s recommendations.
And he appeared to have surrendered to his fate as he concluded his 15-minute defence, saying: “I am taking the bullet. I am leaving this place with my head held high… I can assure you. I am a spiritual person who works hard professionally and I will continue undertaking duties of national building”.
While the committee found the charges against Wambora substantiated, it absolved his Deputy Dorothy Nditi of any wrongdoing.
Moving the Motion, Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale said his committee found Wambora to have violated the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, the Public Finance Management Act and the Constitution.
But they found charges of abuse of office and violation of the County Government Act not substantiated.
Mr Khalwale said the committee had found procurement irregularities and “outright violations of the relevant laws” in the manner procurement of crucial tenders were undertaken.
The charges were in respect to procurement of 16 tonnes of maize seeds at Sh3.52 million, which were condemned and thus failed to germinate, and another tender for refurbishment of Embu Stadium at Sh8 million.
The committee noted that when the Governor appeared before them, he presented himself as having been a “mere by-stander and observer in the procurement debacles”. “He gave the impression he had totally removed himself from the controversies surrounding the works of the stadium and the defective maize seeds, leaving these matters primarily to the County Secretary, if not to no one in particular”.
“It is the view of the committee that while the primary liability for violations may lie with individual officers, the Constitution, which provides for responsibilities of leadership, lead to the conclusion that the Governor will be held liable for violations that occur during his watch,” the report further stated.
Khalwale said the committee was shocked by the manner the Governor approached the charges, saying instead of taking the chance to defend himself, he only feigned ignorance or passed the buck to his junior. “Instead of seizing the moment, he chose to tell us how he was an altar boy and relying on other issues that could not convince us of his innocence,” Khalwale told the Senate.
Supporting the Motion, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said Senate must stand up in its constitutional obligation. “We must show Kenyans we respect devolution and this evening declare that Mr Martin Nyaga Wambora must go home, for his failure to trend in the ways of devolution,” he said. Murkomen also took issue with the way the Governor feigned ignorance and branded some of the issues raised against him as “small issues”.
Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki was reluctant in supporting the Motion, disclosing his close political relationship with the Governor. “If the oracles have decided, all I can say is that let justice be done… with a very painful heart, I want to say I support the Motion,” he said. Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula said Wambora must take responsibility for his failures. “Wambora made a bed and decided to pour water on it. He must now sleep on it… It matters little the quantum of money involved,” said the Bungoma Senator.
Only Baringo Senator Gideon Moi supported the embattled Governor. “I plead that we have an open mind and listen to him when he comes here. Let’s know that only fools don’t change their minds,” he said.
Siaya Senator James Orengo said Wambora gave an impression of a hands-off governor, overseeing a dysfunctional government, especially as he had abdicated his responsibilities to County Secretary Margaret Kariuki. “Sending Wambora home is not really something harsh, we are in a way also helping him since he has already abdicated his duties.” he said.
Nominated Senator Martha Wangare said it amounted to contempt and disrespect to Kenyans for the Governor to trivialise Sh8 million.
Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama claimed the impeachment would lead to many others being forced out of office due to excesses in their operations.
Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o said by impeaching Wambora, the Senate was taking responsibility of helping the county from sinking.
Kericho Senator Charles Keter said the impeachment should not be seen as an action of ill motive, saying Governors must ensure adherence to the Constitution. “The issue of maize seeds is especially hurting, because this is an economic sabotage,” he argued.
Kitui Senator David Musila said: “I was touched by the maize seed scandal, this is irresponsible.”
When the matter came to vote, 39 Senators voted yes, one abstained, sixe were absent and only one (Mr Gideon Moi) voted no.