By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura
NAIROBI – Five days after being charged with nepotism, it is still unclear whether Kenya’s central bank governor Andrew Mullei is coming or going.
Planning Minister Henry Obwocha said on Saturd
ay Mullei, appointed governor of the bank in March 2003, was suspended after being charged with abuse of office for awarding lucrative consultancies to his son and three associates.
But, colleagues at the bank were surprised to see Mullei’s familiar, bespectacled figure walk into his office on Monday afternoon — not to clear his desk but to report to duty.
“It is clearly causing a lot of confusion within and without the bank,” a central bank source said.
“It’s put us in an awkward position because we don’t know what we are supposed to do.”
In theory, Kenyan law allows the governor security of tenure. However, he can be sacked by the president if convicted of dishonesty or fraud, or upon the recommendations of a tribunal appointed by the president to investigate him.
The court case has had Kenya’s Attorney-General Amos Wako and Mullei’s lawyer Mutula Kilonzo locking horns over Mullei’s status with no clarity from government spokesman Alfred Mutua.
Last Friday, Wako said any public official charged before court stands either suspended or interdicted according to the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act under which Mullei is prosecuted.
But Kilonzo insists that only President Mwai Kibaki can ask the governor to leave his post.
“(My client) is simply complying with the law. Under the Central Bank Act, the governor can only be suspended by the president,” Kilonzo told Reuters. “This is very complicated, the government has shot itself in the foot.”
Government spokesman Mutua said: “We’re not commenting on this at the moment.”
Mullei has repeatedly denied claims of wrongdoing and his aides told Reuters that the central bank’s board and the finance ministry were aware of the consultancies.
His trial is due to start on June 8. Planning Minister Obwocha had said deputy governor Jacinta Mwatela would fill Mullei’s shoes pending the outcome of the case.
Other than a slight dip when news of Mullei’s prosecution hit the markets, the shilling has ignored the indictment and remained at between 72.25-72.55 shillings to the dollar.
“The market has discounted everything to do with it, pure fundamentals will apply,” Chris Rwengo, a senior dealer with Standard Chartered Bank said.
A former International Monetary Fund director, Mullei is widely credited with bringing stability to the local money and currency markets and the banking sector. — Reuter