On January 12, this year, Francis Wangusi, the director general of the telcoms industry regulator Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) was suspended for 3 months to give way for an audit into how the organisation conducts its training and promotion of staff.
In Wangusi’s absence, the CA board appointed Christopher Kemei – the director of Licensing, Compliance and Standards at the authority – as acting Director General.
(TOP: Francis Wangusi, the suspended CA boss).
The earliest Wangusi can be back in the office, resuming his official duties is April 12. And that’s assuming that the audit finds no direct fault on his part and clears his name. This also assumes that the audit process is not driven by witch hunt and just a smokescreen to enable the board to get rid of Wangusi.
Going through media reports however, it is increasingly appearing that there’s more to Francis Wangusi’s than just the (alleged irregular) training and promotions at CA.
Yesterday, Sunday January 21, 2018, the Standard published an article chronicling the financing requests the CA had received from its parent ministry, the Ministry of ICT, which either honoured in whole, in part or rejected altogether. The ministry’s requests were sent to CA by Sammy Itemere, the PS in charge of Broadcasting and Telecommunications who joined the public sector after a career in the banking sector which lasted for more that 10 years. Before he became PS at the Ministry of ICT, Itemere was the MD of Equitorial Commercial Bank.
Below are some of the financing requests – which are 30 in total – submitted to the CA by the ministry in the past one year:
- Last year, the ministry requested him to provide Kshs 25 million to go towards the swearing in ceremony of President Uhuru Kenyatta, despite the function being fully budgeted for. Wangusi did not immediately act on the request as was required, in what put him in the line of fire. The request was later cancelled and he was asked to ‘ignore and cancel the letter’. Sunday Standard, reports Sammy Itemere, who authored most of the letters, said the specific request for the swearing in was later cancelled as it already had a budget. “Insiders say it was not clear why a cash rich parastatal sitting on Kshs 10 billion would ‘refuse’ the ministry small amounts of money in ‘petty cash,’ states Standard. CA collects license and other fees from operators on behalf of the government and it returns the surplus to the National Treasury. In mid 2014 for instance, the CA handed over a Kshs 4 billion dividend cheque to the National Teasury.
- Itemere requested the CA to fund ministry officials among them the Cabinet Secretary, himself and their personal assistants to attend the fourth world internet conference in China. This despite the fact that the ministry has its own travel budgets which should be utilised in such occassions.
- 3. In June last year, with 2 months left to the General Election, PS Itemere asked Wangusi to convene a special board meeting to approve a tender for a system that would operate independent of existing network operators in case of a terror related attack during the electioneering period. However, the contentious issue was the procurement method to be used as the ministry preferred a restricted tendering process. Whether the process went ahead or was aborted is still unclear.
- In May last year, Itemere again wrote to Wangusi seeking sponsorship to attend the conference in Geneva on information and knowledge societies. The letter copied to the CS Mucheru was forwarded to the CA director general’s office on May 18.
- In July last year, Itemere asked Wangusi to fund his entourage of six to attend the Kisumu International Trade Fair where he had been invited to represent the CA board. The PS asked the CA to foot the bills for five other people who would accompany him among them his personal assistant, the chief assistant office administrator, his driver, security and a driver to his personal assistant. Wangusi, however, only approved funding for a team of three – the PS, his driver and security, leaving out the office administrator and the driver to the principal secretary’s personal assistant.
- The other request came a month later in August for funding to attend the Mombasa Agricultural Show. This time however, the PS put in a request for three members of his team – himself, his driver and a security officer – to avoid the previous embarrassment witnessed during the Kisumu Trade Fair. However, he asked for a more extended stay in Mombasa, from the previous two to five to accommodate a board retreat scheduled after the agricultural trade fair. Wangusi approved this request and forwarded it to his juniors at the Authority with instructions to ‘deal and revert.’
- Another of this requests would come in November 2017. This time Itemere was seeking sponsorship for five officials to attend a workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, considered as “one of the most lucrative destinations for government officials given that it pays the best per diem rates in the region.” The PS would earn $603 per day in per diem, which translates to over Kshs 60,000 per day. His bodyguard and driver would earn Kshs 25,000 each ($253) while a personal assistant to Itemere would draw Kshs 33,000 or $332 per day. They were attending the conference for four days.
Already, Wangusi has come out questioning the reasons and rationale behind his mandatory suspension, stating to the Standard that: “To be sincere I do not think the reasons given are genuine and I believe it has something to do with my hard-line stance on several crucial matters the Authority has handled in the recent past.”
Standard adds that “the fights at the ministry started way back in 2016 after Wangusi appeared too ‘mean with his resources’ and at times outright defiant.”