The Kenya Water Towers Agency’s lavish expenditure of Ksh147 million on a project, despite meager progress, has caught the scrutiny of the Auditor General.

This revelation comes in the midst of a fierce clash between the Environment Principal Secretary, Festus Ng’eno, and the Agency’s board.

The dispute reached a climax when the Principal Secretary nullified the board’s suspension of the Agency’s Chief Executive Officer, Julius Tanui, on allegations of corruption related to the misappropriation of Ksh147.7 million earmarked for the development of the Kaptagat Bamboo site.

Related story: Echesa in War with PS After Suspension of Agency CEO Amid Graft Claims

This endeavor to establish a National Bamboo Growing Demonstration Centre at Kaptagat, aimed at fostering the commercialisation of bamboo among communities residing in proximity to forests, has raised questions as the audit exposes neglect and scant progress on the ground.

“The audit revealed the site was neglected and had minimal activity towards establishing a bamboo demonstration centre,” said the Auditor General.

Kenya Water Tower chairman Rashid Echesa. Image: courtesy.
Kenya Water Tower chairman Rashid Echesa. Image: courtesy.

This is despite the Agency having spent Ksh147.7 million between 2017/2018 to 2021/2022 towards the establishment of the bamboo enterprise.”

The decision to suspend Prof Tanui was ultimately reached during a comprehensive board meeting on September 12, following previous unsuccessful attempts by the board’s finance committee to suspend the CEO.

This committee had convened two special sessions and a regular meeting in its pursuit of the CEO’s suspension. However, Principal Secretary Ng’eno intervened by overriding the board’s suspension decision and encouraged the warring parties to find a resolution internally.

The board has escalated the matter by writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment Soipan Tuya, with the matter now gaining the attention of the Office of the President.

A letter in the possession of Business Day Africa reveals that Principal Secretary Ng’eno wrote to the board chair, Rashid Echesa, suspending the board’s decision.

 “Having considered the issues raised and the gravity of the matter, I propose that you schedule a special full board meeting on September 25, 2023, to deliberate further on the matter since this is a weighty decision that requires further consultation. The resolution of the board is hereby suspended until otherwise advised,” said the PS.

Professor Tanui has presided over the Water Towers Agency since 2018, initially in an acting capacity, before his confirmation just three days before the 2022 General Election.

The Kenya Water Towers Agency, a State Corporation, is entrusted with coordinating and overseeing the protection, rehabilitation, conservation, and sustainable management of water towers throughout the country.