Is Youth Fund board chair Bruce Odhiambo a ‘super chairman’?

Is Youth Fund board chair Bruce Odhiambo a 'super chairman'?

The rot at the Youth Enterprise Development Fund that emanates from years of systemic abuse of power and resources by the top leadership at the institution has raised serious questions over the government’s ability to stem corruption in public institutions.

Weeks into the interrogation of officials of the fund and parent ministry by the parliamentary Public Investments Committee, it has emerged that the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Youth Affairs Sicily Kariuki has been frustrated by the rampant graft at the fund but has been unable to act against some of the top officials implicated.

The continued stay in office of the fund’s chair Bruce Odhiambo is suspect, two years after his predecessor Gor Semelango was ousted rather unceremoniously by the then Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru.

When the Ms Kariuki appeared before PIC, she acknowledged that she could not take action against board Chair Bruce Odhiambo who had been adversely mentioned in the youth fund scam, for he is a presidential appointee.

Even then Kariuki admitted to having written to the President through the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua recommending the suspension of Odhiambo and eight other board members, appointees of the Cabinet Secretary.

“I have recommended for sacking of the chair and board members, because the chair is an appointee of His Excellency and not my office,” said Ms Kariuki.

Ten days later, Odhiambo and fellow directors are still in office.

In April 2014, the then chair of the Youth Fund Board Gor Semelang’o was removed by Waiguru through a Gazette Notice. Reasons for his removal were never made clear 16 months after he was appointed by President Mwai Kibaki.

When that decision was made, President Uhuru Kenyatta was not in the country. He was in London for the First Lady’s Marathon and a tour of the United Kingdom.

Why then is it so difficult to suspend or remove Bruce Odhiambo who has already admitted to contravening the law and defying resolutions of the board that he chairs?

His decision led to the payment of 180.9 million shillings for a fictitious ICT strategy project, the genesis of the current mess that the youth fund finds itself in.

In other similar instances where officials have been cited in financial impropriety, those mentioned have been suspended forthwith including Cabinet Secretaries to safeguard public resources and the investigation process, the question that once again arises is: why not Odhiambo?

Some members of the Public Investments Committee quipped that Odhiambo is a “super chairman” who rides a state car that cost 12 million shillings, a car that he is not entitled to according to the ministry guidelines, and whose procurement was said to have been irregular.

According to the State Corporations Act, section six, sub-section 2 (e), the chairman or board member of a state corporation can be removed by the Minister if he conducts himself in a manner deemed inconsistent with membership of the board.

For now, the country waits for word from the President and the Cabinet Secretary on the fate of the implicated officials.

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Story By Sam Gituku
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