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Orphans suffer as CWSK top brass battle to control millions

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BRIAN WASUNA

By BRIAN WASUNA
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Today, Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK) chief executive Irene Mureithi would have been exactly two months into compulsory leave to pave the way for a special audit of the institution that was exposed for mistreatment of minors and gross corruption in a series of media reports.

But on October 11, just four days after the letter sending her on compulsory leave was drafted, Ms Mureithi obtained a court order barring her suspension and has since opened an all-out war against her employer.

The media reports detailed how children under the CWSK’s care were denied proper medical attention, exposed to expensive, unverified treatments while money that could have eased the situation was used in projects now under investigation.

Attempts to suspend Ms Mureithi have now spawned a series of court cases where several orders have been issued, throwing the CWSK into a dizzy spin that now threatens to grind operations to a halt.

The court battles have also threatened to hamper investigations into graft and mistreatment of children which was ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s office following the damning media reports in August and September.

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Aside from fighting suspension, Ms Mureithi is also locked in a battle with the CWSK board of directors for control of 11 accounts at Equity Bank, which the lender has now frozen following confusion over individuals with authority over the millions domiciled in them.

Board chairperson Shakila Abdalla has now revealed in court papers that Ms Mureithi has used the order stopping her suspension to change account signatories for the Equity Bank accounts, effectively locking the CWSK out of its own funds while fighting a series of suits.

On October 14, children at Mama Ngina Children’s Home in South C, Nairobi, were forced to split old furniture into firewood for cooking, after the board failed to secure funds for any other means owing to the lockout, according to court papers.

“The CWSK is unable to provide the very essential and basic needs of these vulnerable children as the provision of essential services, including food, have ground to a halt. There is further risk of misuse and misappropriation of public funds by Ms Mureithi, which funds are meant for the well-being of vulnerable children,” Ms Abdalla says.

When the CWSK board met on October 7, it resolved to change the signatories of 11 bank accounts operated by the institution at Equity Bank.

And on October 16, the board furnished Equity Bank with a fresh list of signatories.

Equity, however, refused to change the signatories, arguing that Ms Mureithi had earlier written to the lender in her capacity as CEO instructing it not to follow the CWSK board’s demands for a switch.

CWSK’s Trustees also wrote to Equity insisting that the signatories should remain the same, seemingly in support of Ms Mureithi.

The letter, signed by Trustees Board chairman Joseph Gitau, was sent to Equity on October 19.

Five days later, the National Treasury ordered Equity Bank to freeze the 11 accounts, citing violation of the Public Finance Management Act and the likelihood of losing money to graft. The lender complied.

The CWSK has now sued Equity Bank for freezing its accounts, accusing the lender of acting without notice.

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Mr Basiliano Nyaga, a CWSK official, claims the lender froze the accounts irregularly and without informing the institution.

He adds that CWSK is now unable to operate as its funds are stuck.

Equity, however, insists that it informed the CWSK of the Treasury order, and that Mr Nyaga has failed to inform the court of the National Treasury directive as part of a ploy to lift the freeze order.

Mr Nyaga, Trustees chairman Gita and Ms Mureithi are the signatories to the 11 bank accounts.

The lender’s legal services manager Kariuki Kingori adds that Equity also froze the accounts after it was unable to ascertain the proper list of signatories.

“In view of the existence of the dispute, the bank exercised its right to restrict transactions, which right exists with regard to any account which, in the bank’s opinion, is not being operated satisfactorily, such as when there is a dispute between account signatories or where the persons mandated to operate the account are not clear to the bank.

“The orders sought are untenable in law and cannot be granted to a stranger without the authority of the National Treasury and granting the orders would be circumventing the Public Finance Management Act, 2012, that could possibly lead to embezzlement of public funds as earlier reported,” Mr Kingori says in court filings.

In her suit against CWSK, Ms Mureithi claims the board of directors was not properly constituted as per the law, hence had no power to send her on compulsory leave.

She holds that after the CWSK was converted into a State corporation in 2014, its first board of directors was to be drawn through nomination of individuals by the institution’s trustees.

Ms Mureithi adds that the CWSK has never had its first board of directors since becoming a State corporation, and that the current office holders were irregularly appointed by Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani.

The CWSK has now asked Justice Hellen Wasilwa to allow them to suspend Ms Mureithi, arguing that the embattled CEO tricked the court into issuing orders by concealing information such as the ongoing probe.

Board chairperson Abdalla holds that stopping Ms Mureithi’s suspension has slowed down investigations into the State agency.

Interestingly, barely two weeks after CWSK attempted to suspend Ms Mureithi, two court cases were also filed in Nairobi and Kisumu challenging the current board of directors, which only assumed office on October 3.

The Nairobi case, filed by Mr Joel Asiachi Kusimba, reiterates Ms Mureithi’s claims.

On October 8, 2019, just one day after Ms Mureithi’s suspension, Justice Wasilwa issued a court order barring Mr Abdul Bahari, Ms Shakila Abdalla, Ms Cheryl Majiwa, Ms Doris Kinuthia and Mr Peter Molu Ibrae as first members of CWSK’s board of directors following Mr Kusimba’s suit.

The CWSK has also asked the judge to revoke her orders, arguing that Mr Kusimba lied about the CWSK never having a first board of directors.

The institution says the first board completed its term in March, 2018, and by law their replacements were to be appointed by the Labour and Social Protection CS.

On October 24, Mr Mickey Boyi Otolo filed a suit in Kisumu challenging legal notice 58 of 2014, which made the CWSK a State corporation.

Justice A. Ombwayo issued orders suspending the implementation of the legal notice on October 24.

The judge’s order means that the CWSK will revert to operating as a society and will be nearly free of government scrutiny or control.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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