Little was known about Catherine Namuye, the former Youth Enterprise Fund Chief Executive who collapsed and died at her Nairobi home on Wednesday, when she was appointed to the position on an acting capacity in February 2013.
But in a period of two years, she had become the face of what appears to be a jinxed leadership at the fund, and a grueling power struggle that ended in her suspension, prosecution on corruption charges, before she was finally sacked.
A Bachelor of Arts Economics and Sociology graduate from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa with a Masters in Finance from the United States International University, Ms Namuye had everything going for her when she rose to the helm of the fund on an acting capacity after serving as the body’s general manager.
Her appointment on an acting capacity followed the suspension of her then boss Juma Mwatata Mwangala, who had been sent packing over allegations of purchasing 1,050 hatching machines at a cost of Sh208 million without the Youth Fund board’s approval.
In January 2015, Ms Namuye was thrust into the limelight when she was controversially and irregularly confirmed into her position by the Youth Fund board chair Bruce Odhiambo.
Such an appointment was irregular since it can only be done by the Cabinet Secretary upon the board’s recommendation of three names of qualified candidates.
Mr Odhiambo, the flamboyant head of the fund who was later suspended and charged with Ms Namuye on corruption allegations, later fired Ms Namuye months into her controversial appointment accusing her of non-performance.
But a failure by then Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru to appoint a new CEO meant Ms Namuye continued serving in her position.
She continued to be in the news when in March 2015, in an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission dossier tabled in Parliament by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Despite being mentioned as under investigation for alleged malpractices, Ms Namuye stayed in office when other government officials including six Cabinet Secretaries resigned from their jobs.
But in October 2015, Ms Namuye was suspended and later charged alongside her boss Mr Odhiambo, and the managing director of Quorandum Ltd, Mr Mukuria Ngamau, a firm that Parliament said irregularly won a Sh180 million contract.
“The youth fund lost Sh180 million through a well-orchestrated and dubious non-existent consultancy service scheme that was crafted by Mr Odhiambo, Ms Namuye and Mr Ngamau,” Parliament stated in its report.
In her defence before Parliament, Ms Namuye accused the fund’s board members of having personal interests in the controversial payment of Sh180 million to a communications firm.
She told Parliament that she found the decision to make her the single signatory of the fund’s account, “curious and suspect.”
As such, she pleaded, she was only acting on the instructions of the board when she authorised payment of the contract.
But investigators found that she had a case to answer, alleging that she and Mr Odhiambo received Sh 4.5 million and Sh 1.8 million in kickbacks, respectively, from Quorandum.
Prosecutors said that the suspects conspired to defraud the public through “unlawful payment of Sh180,364,789 from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund to Quorandum Limited for services not rendered.”
Ms Namuye denied a charge of abuse of office.
The case was still ongoing.
Catherine Namuye died at her home in Kileleshwa, Nairobi police boss says.