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Siaya deputy governor removal needed deeper reporting beyond MCAs showbiz

Siaya Deputy Governor William Oduol was removed from office on Thursday, June 8, by the county assembly on several accusations.

Acting on the report of their 14-member special committee, they fingered the DG for gross violation of the Constitution and other laws, abuse of office, unacceptable levels of misconduct and misleading the public by giving false information.

The Members of the County Assembly also took issue with Oduol for failing to appear before the committee to defend himself against the accusations, reading that as a sign of abject obduracy.

His fate now lies with the Senate. It will either uphold the decision of the MCAs or overturn it and reinstate him.

Several media outlets – save for the Daily Nation – covered the impeachment motion generally from what transpired on the floor of the house but missed the opportunity to delve into the details of the accusations. They seemed unaware that whatever members say in plenary is largely showbiz.

For a matter as crucial as impeaching a deputy governor, it is instructive that reporters pick out important aspects of the house committee. For therein lies what may seal the fate of the accused or create loopholes that would – eventually – make work so light for the Senate in shooting down the resolve of the MCAs.

We shall use the Daily Nation story because it had the details of the accusations as contained in the report of the special committee.

The committee established that Mr Oduol coerced the head of County Procurement Unit to give him raw evaluation report for the tender on supply and delivery of certified seeds and fertiliser, together with unsigned professional opinion despite being advised on the dangers of exposing such documents for a procurement process which had not yet resulted in final selection and award of tender.

What is “unsigned professional opinion” and how does it inadvertently influence tendering? Reporters across all media platforms didn’t say.

On the other hand, Mr Oduol was found liable by unjustifiably relying on the authority of the office of the DG, caused to be changed by coercion, certain specifications in 86 tender documents for roads construction within the county.

Pray, what are the powers of the office of the deputy governor other than those assigned to him by the governor? We don’t know.

“The committee established that Mr Oduol pushed for changes in specifications to award one contractor with more than one tender projects [sic]. He also wanted different companies with same directors awarded more than one tender,” said Mr Otiato.

What specifications did Mr Oduol change? Who is this “one contractor” and which are the “more than one project” s/he won? Where are the projects, anyway? What are the companies with same directors that clinched more than one tender, and for what?

On ground of gross misconduct and abuse of office, the Special Committee established that banking on the authority of his office, Mr Oduol forced incurring of expenses of approximately Sh18 million for purposes of renovating his office, purchase of furniture and office equipment; an expenditure that was not in the budget and therefore not in the procurement plan in contravention of Section 53(2).

 This was a new administration under Governor James Orengo. Who gave his deputy the leeway to spend public money anyhow to renovate his office and pack furniture of own taste therein? Also, if the expenditure “was not in the budget”, where did the money come from? Who allocated the money? The tendering committee or the DG?

A procurement list dated December 18, 2022 seen by Nation shows that Mr Oduol’s office received presidential mahogany timber finished in two pack at Sh336,700; bookshelf cabinet at Sh567,700; five pieces of curved coffee tables with stools Sh756,700; executive orthopedic desk chair back and a fully-spring seat at Sh238,840.

The list also had an executive visitors chair back and seat full spring Sh238,840; office mahogany in and out tray at Sh178,200; executive custom made round tables finished in two packs Sh254,800; 12 executive high back executive orthopedic desk chair [sic] in leather (black colour) Sh2,844,000 and a seven-seat custom made executive curved sofa set Sh910,000.

“It also captured a Priya executive orthopedic desk chair and seat fully spring at Sh1,120,000, six meters conference table worth Sh1,051,200; Priya executive visitors chair back and seat fully spring Sh168,000; grooved coffee table Sh211,400; executive custom made desk and fully spring at Sh333,000.

So, the DG’s office – not Mr Oduol – “received” a wide array of furniture of different makes and shapes worth millions of shillings barely three months after the 2022 General Election? If that wasn’t wanton plunder of public resources in a county yawning for amenities, what is?

The DG also misled the members of the public that funds allocated towards completion of the Siaya stadium had been reallocated in the Supplementary Budget I for the Financial Year 2022-2023 [yet] it had been confirmed that the allocation had been enhanced and not removed as the deputy governor claimed.

Media reports remind us that Mr Oduol had raised numerous issues over alleged misuse of public funds by the executive wing of the Siaya county government. The special assembly committee found all that to be hot air, amounting to nothing?

Even as Oduol’s matter awaits consideration by the Senate, the media must be reminded that the report of the special committee of the Siaya county assembly raised more questions than answers. Reporters must urgently acquaint themselves with the Constitution and laws touching on public finance and procurement at the county level.

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