Or is it a case of same script, same cast with a few new extras?

I think the latter describes the Kenyan scenario better if the front-page story on last Thursday’s Daily Nation is anything to go by?

Daily Nation front page on Thursday 24th May 2018

This story bears a striking resemblance to a story that was in the Kenyan press for months in 2016. For those who are not familiar with the National Youth service (NYS) Scandal where an alleged loss of over Ksh. 3 billion (about USD 30 Million) led to the firing of then Devolution and Planning Minister Anne Waiguru and Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti, a salonist known as Josephine Kabura is said to have won multimillion tenders with the NYS. She is said to have pocketed up to Ksh. 1.6 billion on behalf of powerful individuals in the country.

In her testimony during investigations by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee at that time, Kabura claimed that the payments were made to her on behalf of the then planning minister, a claim the minister vehemently denied. In fact in her public testimony and media appearances, the minister claimed that she had never met Miss. Kabura. On social media though, photos of the two allegedly attending several functions together appeared. Whether they were valid or doctored though is a matter we cannot ascertain at this point.

What was however shocking though was the explanation Miss. Kavura gave when asked how she carried the huge sums of money she withdrew from her bank accounts on behalf of her “alleged handlers.”

“I would carry the money in one bag at a time to the site. A bag would fit between Sh10 million to Sh20 million. ,” she told the Public Accounts Committee investigating the initial scam.

Today another corruption scandal has emerged with the Kenyan media reporting that the same department could have lost up to Ksh. 9 billion – three times what was lost in the first scam! What is even more interesting is the striking resemblance of the manner in which the money was siphoned out.

Investigating  agencies have already interviewed about 42 people in connection with the new scandal and are already preparing charges against some of them.

Just like in Kabura’s case this time too there is a lady who had pocketed Ksh. 60 millions for the supplies of items she could not explain to the investigating agencies. Local media report that Ms. Ann Wambere Wanjiku Ngirita, 30 was awarded a supply contract with NYS even without going through the regular tendering process.

All the 30-year-old did was walk to NYS headquarters and request a procurement officer to allow her to supply goods.

– Daily Nation

According to documents seen by Daily Nation regarding her statement to the inestigators, Ms. Ngerita oes not know where the goods were sourced, their cost and if they were delivered though she personally filled invoices.

It clearly looks like some of the people being investigated in the current corruption scandals were merely being used as pawns in an elaborate chess game whose sole aim was to “capture” billions of public funds through non-existent supply of goods and services.

Some of these people the investigation reports indicate pocketed a paltry Ksh. 500,000 out of multi-million deals. So the big question is who is pocketing the big cash?

The current corruption scandal at NYS, a body responsible for training youths in life skills is proof that the initial purge that saw the removal of the ministry and department’s leadership did not actually bear fruits. Perhaps those affected by the purge were not actually involved in the initial plot but were merely setup by powerful or influential individuals to take the fall.

The NYS Department budget was Ksh. 2.4 billion in 2014 but by 2017 the department’s budget had risen 10 times to Ksh. 25 billion!

Was the increase in the money allocated to NYS justified by a specific development objective or was some highly placed individuals intentionally inflating the budget to create room for siphoning public funds?

Well the investigations around NYS Scandals has always focused on the media splashing these headlines with outrageous stories on how low-level beneficiaries walked away with millions of public funds while the the real masterminds of the scam who influenced the inflated budgets and ultimately benefited from the looted funds sit pretty in public offices.

Perhaps the only way we make sure that we do not have another major scam at NYS or any other public institution for that matter is to ensure that the real people behind this script are unmasked. It’s time we stopped focusing on the supporting actresses and extras and shine the spotlight on the real cast of Kenya’s mega corruption scandals. We will be surprised at where this leads us.