During a television interview two months after the first Huduma Centre was opened in January last year, Ms Anne Waiguru, when asked to describe herself, said: “I am just a normal girl; a normal Kenyan girl.”
The Cabinet Secretary, who until her appointment in 2013 was relatively unknown, made President Uhuru Kenyatta, while announcing her appointment, to mention that she was “the only nominee from the Civil Service to be in the Top 40 under 40 women list by Business Dailynewspaper in 2011.”
But events that would follow in the coming months showed that the woman known for her love for power suits — but who announced her resignation clad in a black and white polka dots dress, and a red coat on Saturday — is anything but ordinary.
Even before her nomination to the Cabinet, Ms Waiguru had already had a distinguished career working as the director, Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis), and head of Governance at the National Treasury.
She had also served briefly as a senior public sector manager/ assistant vice-president at Citigroup, and also as a technical advisor in the Office of the President, a position seconded by the World Bank.
But it was her appointment as the CS in charge of steering the country into the uncharted territory of Devolution that gave her a meteoric rise to levels not reached by any of her peers in the technocratic government, before leading to her eventual downfall.
Her giant ministry virtually touched all the operations of government.
Her triumphant entry to her home village in Gichugu, dressed in full Gikuyu traditional wear reserved for heroines (ngatha) in September last year for her homecoming party, attended personally by the President and a horde of politicians, showed she was not just a CS but a significant power player.
By this time, the Huduma Centres launched in November 7, 2013 under her ministry had already won several awards, including the prestigious United Nations Public Service Award for “best improvement in public service out of over 800 similar services across the world.”
Huduma Kenya centres, which have since been rolled out across the country, offer an Integrated Service Delivery (ISD) model which provides citizens with access to multiple government services under one roof, hence cutting bureaucracy and reducing corruption.
At some point the Ministry of Devolution said they were serving over 20,000 customers daily.
Soon after her homecoming party, her ministry was again involved in the most ambitious youth employment project yet by the Jubilee government, winning her as many admirers as haters as she had stepped in the political backyard of Cord leader Raila Odinga.
The NYS project was launched as a pilot scheme in Kibera on November 17 to a lot of fanfare as 675 servicemen and machines roared into the previously neglected slum to clean up and rehabilitate it, with the help of 3,000 youth from the area who were being paid weekly wages while saving some of the money in a sacco.
Within a short time, filthy streets became cleaner, eight police posts sprung up, a dozen Beyond Zero clinics were started and street lights illuminated the slum’s dangerous pathways.
On the night before Jamhuri Day, President Kenyatta led other dignitaries to celebrate the holiday with residents of the slum before announcing that the project would be expanded countrywide.
Ms Waiguru had made it to the top.
“It is unfair for leaders to politic all the time when they have never done anything for the youth,” said the President during the event in a veiled reference to Mr Odinga, who was a long-serving MP for Lang’ata constituency that covered Kibera before it was split.
But during the process of nationalising the youth empowerment project, the Central Bank in June this year wrote to the Ministry of Devolution questioning huge payments amounting to Sh791 million paid by NYS to private companies.
Soon after, details began to emerge on the swindling of money meant for the project, including how officials in the ministry tried to arm-twist Treasury officials to reverse the details before the matter went public.
This is even as the government came to her defence, saying the accusations against her were political and that no money was lost.
The government said her actions had prevented loss of funds as she had invited the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) once she detected a conspiracy to commit fraud in her ministry.
“Narratives around CBK investigations at NYS must, therefore, be treated as political speculation,” said State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu.
Meanwhile, protests started breaking out in some of the areas the projects were being carried out as youth demanded to be paid arrears that were running into weeks, while others were told that the project had taken a two-week break.
But in an unprecedented move, Ms Waiguru in September admitted that Sh791 million had indeed been stolen and that there was a conspiracy to steal a further Sh695 million, before suspending 21 officials.
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