It emerged on Monday that former president Mwai Kibaki used his position to push for the award of scholarships to his relatives.
Mr Kibaki’s name was mentioned during the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly.
Former head of public service and secretary to the cabinet, ambassador Francis Muthaura, told the PAC that Mr Kibaki directed him to ensure that two children of his nephew, Mr Philip Githinji, got government sponsorship to study in Australia.
The sponsorship of Ian Githinji and Sandra Githinji has seen the government pay about Sh25 million for their education at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).
Mr Githinji enrolled for a master’s degree in analytics while Ms Githinji went for a bachelor’s degree in interior design.
Although their programmes were to last four years from 2011 when they enrolled, six years down the line they are yet to finish their studies.
The committee members questioned why the two could not pursue the courses locally.
According to Mr Muthaura, Mr Kibaki directed him to liaise with former Higher Education Permanent Secretary Chrispus Kiamba to have the students assisted after their father lost his job at Oil Libya Company Limited.
“After he lost his job, he could not sustain the education of his children,” Mr Muthaura told the watchdog committee chaired by Ugunja Member of Parliament (MP) Opiyo Wandayi.
“He made an appeal to the president to be assisted through the government scholarship programme. The president considered the request and directed me to present the case to the Ministry of Education,”
Asked by Mr Wandayi to state the relationship between the retired president and Mr Githinji, and why the case was so special, Mr Muthaura said Mr Githinji is a nephew to the president.
“They are personalities who are known to me and you know the pressure that accompanies people in leadership whenever help is sought by the people. The president has discretion in the awarding of things like scholarships. He can intervene to assist anyone- the sick as well [and others] in distress,” he said but did not provide any legal proof to support his answer.
Mr Muthaura wrote to professor Kiamba on August 12, 2011 telling him that the two should be considered because of the “heavy burden Mr Githinji was carrying as a result of taking care of the seven children of his two deceased brothers, in addition to his own family”.
Another letter was to be written to include Ms Githinji in the president’s order, through his then private secretary professor Nick Wanjohi.
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo wondered why the president occasioned the use of public resources when the assistance should have come from his pocket.
Dr Amolo also faulted the retired president for violating the Constitution in the communication of his decisions after Mr Muthaura admitted that some, in respect to Ms Githinji’s case, were verbal.
“Instructions of the president must always be in writing but what has been presented to the committee does not even have a seal as per the Constitution,” Dr Amollo noted.
The Constitution requires that a decision of the president, in the performance of any function of his or her office, be in writing and bear the seal and signature of the president.
Mr Muthaura pleaded with the committee saying the government was still transitioning to the new constitutional order.
“Sympathise with us because we were under transition and had not yet developed the instruments,” he said.
Prof Kiamba also defended the scholarships saying the president acted within his powers.
“We were helping a Kenyan and the ministry was sponsoring students within the East African region and outside,” he said.
University Education and Research Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) and Principal Secretary Collette Suda faulted the manner in which the scholarships were awarded when they appeared before the committee last week.
“We have a committee that oversees the award of scholarships. This case may have been handled differently,” Ms Suda told the MPs.