This week has seen another, of what is becoming the norm lately, emergence of damning details of a mega scandal at a public institution – Kenya Ports Authority.
This time around, it’s not the director of public Prosecutions revealing the identity of individuals he will be pressing charges against and the amount involved but rather an individual volunteering information to the director of criminal investigations asking that his now ‘estranged’ boss be probed and charged.
Joseph Patterson Okakho, a former acting head of the ethics and integrity department, is writing to George Kinoti as a whistleblower in a letter dated 16 July 2019 in the spirit of heeding the presidential directive on the fight against corruption; a very commendable stance and an act of brevity and courage, considering this is his boss his are accusing of getting his dirty hands in the cookie jar.
As expected, the country is excited and the media has found good fodder to feed off, taking as much info as they can to indict the managing director as vilified by his junior, especially after it was confirmed that indeed detectives had put in hundreds to thousands of man hours investigating the matters raised in the letter by the whistleblower.
However, while the man maybe hailed as a hero for his act; a careful reading and analysis of his letter, without prejudice, raises many questions about his intentions and motivation to confront Daniel Manduku in the manner he has. It can be construed as laced with bitterness, malice, personal attacks and bad faith and here Kurunzi News details the reasons why:
1. Improper personal introduction, poor description of his portfolio and lack of substantive motivation for making claims
From the outset, he fails to introduce himself both personally and professionally by giving a description of his background and what his job at KPA and why finds it necessary to raise the issues in the manner he has and against the individuals he is indicting. One only gets to know him by the name that signs off the letter that throughout sounds like endless lamentations for egocentric reasons; more so because his narration is in two persons – first person or I (the victim) and third person or him (the aggressor).
For example, suggests that his troubles began when he was called by the Principal Secretary and instructed to induct the new Managing Director on anti-corruption. There seems to be excitement to receive this order but it quickly turns into doom and gloom when the MD seems disinterested in his 20-minute presentation, instead sparing “less than two minutes”.
The questions here are; why would the PS call Mr Okakho to induct the new MD on anything, wouldn’t that be the function of the board; wouldn’t the head of ethics and integrity’s reporting line be the General Manager (Board & Legal services); wouldn’t the PS find a formal way to communicate on a matter as important as induction of a new MD, why would it be a call to an individual?
He fails to come out clearly to demonstrate public loss occasioned by the action or inaction by the MD. Instead, he is seemingly on an accusing spree, making flat allegations and opinionated conclusions. For instance, allegations on the cancelled IPC training fail to convince anyone how public money was or would have been lost but merely suggests without proof that his emails prevented possible loss or forced the cancellation of the event.
His seems to be a presumptive conclusion that the organizers were known to the MD.
2. Inappropriate posturing as the only competent holder of the position
Throughout the 18-page letter, Mr Okakho comes out as though he is the only one with the credentials to hold the ethics & integrity docket and no other individual has the capacity to head the unit.
In fact, he alludes that fighting corruption is his profession but it gets worse by how he describes the colleague picked to replace him after the board made changes to the heads of department.
“… a man who two years ago was merely a gantry crane operator. The officer has no experience to run an anti-corruption section and has no ability to monitor corruption cartels at the port,” he writes.
This sums up his attitude towards his colleagues so it would be difficult to find the right predicate for his whistleblowing intention, everything could be based on selfishness.
3. Factual misrepresentation, falsehoods and half-truths
Throughout his testimony, he talks of how certain administrative decisions taken by the MD contravene the law or regulations and even goes ahead to suggest that his transfer was as good as a demotion as punishment.
However, a look at the authority’s organizational structure shows that he has been moved horizontally from Board & Legal to Operations services with no change to his remuneration package.
This may as well be confirmation that the reasons advanced maybe nothing other for self gratification, after all. Somewhere in the letter, he talks of how he had once run the docket alone for eight years and one wonders how that becomes relevant in the context of fighting corruption.
Further, he accuses the MD of being responsible for KPA not publicizing information about tenders on the website, a situation he claims is illegal. However, although that cannot be used as justification, a quick look at similar bodies; including Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Railways, among others, shows a similar fact – no such information is posted on their websites, as is mostly the case with many other government institutions.
If this were the basis for indicting public servants, then government would shut down because no one would pass the integrity test. Besides, this would make the fight against corruption so petty that even spitting outside the office window could constitute a crime.
4. Empty rhetoric, no evidence of documents to prove his allegations
He talks about his transfer would affect the graft war at KPA yet, other than empty rhetoric, he cites no evidence of his achievements for the 14 years he has been holding the docket.
He has talked of dozens of reports but has not demonstrated even by a listing of which evidence he has annexed to the DCI to prove his case.
It waters down his case because as a whistleblower who fears possible manipulation and interference with evidence, especially having been maliciously transferred, he would have made sure the whole country knows what evidence he has presented in the event one tampers with it.
Kurunzi News is not making any verdict or drawing conclusions on the merit or otherwise of the case being made by Mr Okakho, this is just a reminder of the lofty threshold and level of responsibility such allegations place on the individual opting to whistleblow; otherwise, if the veracity of these claims cannot be anchored on firm principles of integrity then the whole idea amounts to nought.
One wonders if he would have made these claims had he not been shuffled in the mass transfers.