Will shopping list stand in the way of sprinter who became Devolution PS?

Peter Mangiti? Peter Mang’iti (notice the apostrophe)? Dr Peter Mangiti? None of the above, people who work with the Planning and Devolution Principal Secretary will tell you. “Engineer Peter Mangiti,” putting emphasis on engineer.

On his Twitter account where by yesterday he was following 161 people, and with more than 630 followers, he gives his name as Peter Oganga Mangiti, signing off as a “career civil servant.’’

Before the Anne Waiguru-led Planning and Devolution ministry was thrown to the spotlight over questionable procurement dealings, not much was known of Mr Mangiti— he was just a PS.

What brought the engineer to the spotlight was the questionable procurement of a ballpoint pen costing Sh8,700, a television set at more than Sh1 million, sex toys, condom dispensers among other items.

Together with Ms Waiguru, they are under intense public pressure to quit following revelations that the ministry purchased goods and services at unreasonable prices, according to a document presented before a parliamentary committee by the PS.

Mr Mangiti who comes from a ‘‘village of intellectuals’’ in Homa Bay and neighbours former MP Ray Ndong’ and his architect brother Jerry Ndong’, later withdrew the list.

Before tabling of the price list, the Devolution ministry was in the eye of the storm when Sh791 million was lost at the National Youth Service, a State agency that was being revamped to create jobs for the youth.

Mr Mangiti has attracted vitriol for withdrawing the list he tabled before the Public Accounts Committee. It was “human error,” he said, adding that he was not fixing his minister by presenting and seeking to recall the document.

His actions are not even politically inclined, he said, pointing out that he could not sacrifice his illustrious career of 29 years by playing politics at work.

The PS, who has a University of Dar es Salaam master’s in engineering of water resources, said the ‘error’ was a result of “wrong description, wrong classification of items as assets when they are not.”

This explanation angered many people, including Jubilee Alliance’s Leader of Majority in Parliament in Parliament Aden Duale, who likened the back-and-forth to “perjury.”

Parliament is an august House whose committee sittings have the powers of a High Court since they examine witnesses, according to Article 125 of the Constitution, on oath, affirmation and “compel” them to produce documents.

Section 108 of the Penal Code says someone is convicted of perjury when he “knowingly gives false testimony.” However, Mr Mangiti said presenting the erroneous document was “human error.”

What could have stimulated the human error when people he works with describe him as “intelligent”.

Straight from the University of Nairobi where he studied civil engineering, he joined the civil service in 1987 as an assistant research engineer.

He rose through the ranks to the position of director of land reclamation, head of donor programmes coordinator and acting director of water services in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

People who know him and have worked with him told the Business Daily that he was “an asset” to the World Bank when overseeing government projects funded by the development institution.

A person who only met him at the University of Nairobi when both were students says “Mangiti was a quiet, private, and bright guy who was not involved in student politics.”

When Unesco supported his master’s at the University of Dar es Salaam, Mr Mangiti emerged the second best overall student.
His membership at the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK) is in good standing, presenting him as a man who is keen on being current.

He is also registered as a professional engineer by the Engineers Board of Kenya that recently ordered universities to stop offering certain programmes because they did not have facilities, neither did they have the right faculty members.

He has been a fast man in the sports world. “He is a very good sportsman who loved short races he was very good in the 400 metres race,” his mid-80s contemporary at the University of Nairobi, who is approaching 55 years of age, said. He is married.

Mr Mangiti sat his A-levels at either St Patrick’s High School, Iten in the Rift Valley or Cardinal Otunga School in then Nyanza.

“Then,” our source said, “Iten was taking athletes: runners or volleyballers. Brother Colm was interested in athletes.”

Records show that Brother Colm O’Connell, an Irish missionary who came to Kenya in 1976, earned the accolade “the Godfather of Kenyan running” for training aspiring athletes in track and field events.

Mr Mangiti, who is pursuing a PhD, has ruled out being coerced to issue a statement cancelling the price list he presented before MPs. “The responsibility here is individual. I prefer to be guided by my conscience,” he said.

Ms Waiguru had said she does not handle administrative matters at the ministry, neither is she in charge of procurement, effectively saying all this was in the docket of the PS, who is the accounting officer. “The person who should be held responsible is the accounting officer.

They are the ones to explain why they bought whatever they bought at whatever prices,” Ms Waiguru said.

Ms Waiguru, who this week was also questioned by the anti-corruption authority, has parried the resign-now calls, saying she is going nowhere.

According to the list, the ministry acquired a photocopier at Sh1.4 million, a laptop at Sh206,000, condom dispensers at Sh25,000 a unit, CorelDraw software for S.4 million, a computer and personal laptop for Sh1.1 million and carpets at S.8 million. A Yamaha piano for office use went for Sh235,500.

Mr Mangiti has reiterated he is the accounting officer but clarified that “both the CS and myself have distinct roles at the Ministry” although they work as a team.

The Constitution allows the President to re-assign a PS and CSs are also accountable to the president. Cabinet secretary and principal secretary nominees are vetted by MPs under the 2010 Constitution that ended the era of appointing MPs and ministers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been under pressure from politicians and the rank and file to sack Ms Waiguru should she defy calls to resign.