Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has been in the public eye since joining Parliament as MP for South Imenti in 1992.
While he first emerged as one of the ‘young turks’ advocating for democratic reforms and good governance during the Moi era, his career is ironically punctuated with several links to mega-corruption scandals.
In fact, looking at the Kiraitu Murungi Corruption Scandals he has been mentioned or implicated in over the years allows one to trace some of the biggest cases to hit the headlines – among them Anglo Leasing, Triton Oil, and, most recently, the Kemsa saga.
Audit queries flagged by former Auditor General Edward Ouko for Meru County for the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years have also seen him come under attack at home – where a section of county leaders including Senator Mithika Linturi accuse him of colluding with corrupt officials through shoddy projects and payment of ghost workers to fleece the county millions of shillings.
Kiraitu has never been convicted on corruption charges and has a history of vehemently denying all allegations leveled against him. In February this year, he moved to secure temporary gag orders barring East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Mpuru Aburi and his media company from linking him to graft.
The orders barred Aburi and his Meru-based media operation from publishing content linking the Governor to theft of public resources through suspicious contracts, money laundering and operation of foreign bank accounts.
How he has managed to survive so many years in the political arena despite the claims dogging him confounds both friend and foe – he even had to resign in 2006 as Minister for Energy in former President Mwai Kibaki’s administration to allow for investigations into his alleged attempted cover-up of the Anglo Leasing scandal which cost Kenyan taxpayers more than $600 million (over Ksh50 billion).
But with the 2022 elections approaching, more focus than ever is being shone on his track record on graft, leaving many voters with more questions than answers.
A prominent political figure in Meru county who spoke on condition of anonymity posed: “Of all the Mount Kenya region leaders mentioned in corruption scandals it’s only him who remains in power. Are his cronies in high positions of control?”
His political opponents will no doubt hammer the corruption narrative as they look to dislodge him as Governor after one term.
More recent allegations on alleged theft of public resources in Meru and the Kemsa scandal – over which his wife and son were grilled by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) – are likely to shape the battle for political supremacy in the county.
In the Kemsa scandal, Caperina Enterprises Ltd which has Kiraitu’s wife and son as directors was awarded a Sh45 million tender for the supply of surgical masks.
The scandal caused a massive uproar across the country – as it emerged that the country may have lost billions of shillings in phony contracts dished out to connected companies to supply medical equipment and more at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Triton scandal, on the other hand, cost Kenyan taxpayers about Ksh7.6 billion and is the reason UK authorities are in 2021 pushing to extradite Yagnesh Devani – the businessman often named as the mastermind behind the oil scam.
The British government in January 2021 approved Devani’s extradition to Nairobi to face charges after the businessman spent years fighting it in the courts. The oil scandal went public in January 2009.
It involved the unauthorized release of oil by state-owned Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) without informing financiers. Grilled by the now-defunct Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, Kiraitu denied having ever met Devani or approving the transaction.
He ended up as a state witness, testifying at the Anti-Corruption Court in 2011 in the case where Yagnesh Devani, Mahindra Pathak, Julius Kyalo Kilonzo, Collin Otieno, and Triton Petroleum are accused of jointly disposing of 13 million cubic meters of diesel worth Sh32,047,783 without consent of Emirates National Oil Corporation (Singapore).
Going back further to the Anglo Leasing scandal which temporarily cost him his place in the cabinet, Kiraitu was accused of being central to a failed attempt to cover up the scandal.
On 8 February 2006, the BBC World Service aired a conversation between Kiraitu and former Governance and Ethics Permanent Secretary John Githongo, where he appeared to be coercing Githongo to drop his investigations into the graft scandal.
He had promised that Anura Pereira would forgive a debt of Ksh30 million owed by Githongo’s father.
Githongo later had to flee to exile as he feared for his life after the scandal exposed several powerful political figures.
Kiraitu once described it as ‘the scandal that never was’ and dismissed the recording stating: “I have listened to the alleged tape-recorded evidence. It is truncated, inaudible, insufficient and inadmissible to form any credible proof of the allegations being orchestrated by Mr Githongo”.