Before his political fortunes nosedived, former Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau was the darling of the system – or so he thought.
By being the face behind President Mwai Kibaki’s success in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure – first as Roads engineer and later as a permanent secretary – Mr Kamau was one of those picked as Cabinet Secretary by President Uhuru Kenyatta to drive the Jubilee agenda in infrastructural development, which included the building of the standard gauge railway.
But Tuesday, and slightly before dawn, detectives from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) returned to his upmarket Windy Ridge home, in Nairobi’s Karen, where properties cost upwards of Sh100 million, looking for him.
He was not in – and the detectives left after jumping over the iron-framed wooden gate. Hours later, the EACC officials handed over an investigation file to the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Noordin Haji, who allowed the criminal prosecution of Mr Kamau over a Sh33 million tender awarded to Kundan Singh Construction.
Mr Kamau, 59, had been arrested over the same case before – and fought hard to forestall prosecution.
During his mother’s burial in Naromoru, Mr Kamau had made a plea to both President Kenyatta and former President Kibaki.
“I am not a thief and God knows that Michael Kamau is not a thief,” he said then. “I am not saying this to draw pity. I know why I’m being crucified. I know those who come to my office and say ‘if you don’t do this you will be prosecuted…’”
While the same case had in March 2015 forced him to step aside as Cabinet Secretary to allow for investigations, the University of New Castle upon Tyne graduate engineer will have to put his best effort to win the case.
Previously, Mr Kamau had been charged, along with five others, in a Nairobi Court with abuse of office and failure to follow procurement rules while awarding the tender for the construction of the Kamukuywa-Kaptama- Kapsokwony-Sirisia road.
But Mr Kamau successfully fought his prosecution on a technical issue, by arguing that the EACC was not properly constituted when it recommended his prosecution.
While the three-judge bench, comprising justices Milton Makhandia, William Ouko and Kathurima M’Inoti, ruled that EACC was not properly constituted at the time it forwarded Engineer Kamau’s name to the DPP and recommending his prosecution, the court did not stop EACC from reviving the case.
Mr Kamau had steadily rose from an obscure government engineer at Moi University to become President Mwai Kibaki’s PS for Roads, a docket that put him as the accounting officer for the billions of shillings that were set aside for improving the country’s infrastructure.
It is not the first time that Mr Kamau is facing legal challenges. Last year, a report by a parliamentary committee on Kenya Airports Authority Duty Free Shops accused Mr Kamau of misleading the country that there were no cases pending regarding the ownership of the duty free shops – contested by two businessmen Kamlesh Pattni and Nazzir Ibrahim Ali.
And because a deed of settlement was never entered, Parliament was told, this led “to an exposure of public funds of not less than Sh17 billion arising from court awards that were made by judges during the hearing of the cases.”
The Committee recommended that Mr Kamau “should be held individually responsible for his failure to follow through and ensure that a deed of settlement is entered into between the KAA and the World Duty Free shops to protect public interest.”
The prosecution of Mr Kamau comes at a time when there is heightened pressure on the office of the DPP and the EACC to institute charges on government officials whose cases have been pending to appease public anger and, perhaps, tame the cartel networks. -Nation