PS, 20 public officers to face graft charges

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has recommended the prosecution of at least 20 public officials, including a Principal Secretary (PS), for alleged abuse of office, fraud, theft of public funds, and bribery.

Among those whose files have been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is the PS in the State Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and the Blue Economy over procurement irregularities in one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s key legacy projects for the Coast region.

The file involves inquiry into allegations of irregular procurement of the Sh1 billion ultra-modern fish hub at Liwatoni Fisheries Complex in Mombasa County.

The current PS is Francis Owino who took over the department from Japheth Ntiba Micheni in February this year following a reshuffle conducted by President Kenyatta.

According to the EACC’s annual quarterly report covering April 1 to June 30, 2021, investigations revealed that the PS commenced the tendering process of Phase Two of the project without the approved budget and procurement plan. The report was published in last week’s Kenya Gazette notice.

Investigations on the Liwatoni project further revealed that the department used the tender documents of a French company known as the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) — Federation Internationale Des Ingenieurs Conseils — instead of the standard tender documents prepared by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

This was in contravention of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015), according to the EACC.

Further investigations revealed that the evaluation committee failed to adhere to the law and recommended the award of the tender to an unresponsive bidder, who also submitted false documents in its bid.

In the file forwarded to the DPP on May 4, the EACC recommended prosecution of the PS, the evaluation committee, the head of procurement, and the winning bidder and its proxies.

The EACC wants them charged with various offences, including engaging in a project without prior planning, wilful failure to comply with the law relating to procurement, abuse of office, and neglect of official duty.

Other charges relate to fraudulent procurement, making documents without authority, uttering false documents, and conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption. The report indicates that the commission is awaiting the DPP’s response.

Another file that EACC has recommended prosecution involves a former regional manager for Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra) accused of money laundering and acquisition of public property amounting to Sh2.3 billion.

The EACC commenced investigations on the manager following a report that he had received payments amounting to Sh2.3 billion from several public entities through companies associated with him.

Investigations established that during his tenure as the regional manager he awarded 40 contracts worth Sh147.5 million to his companies and those associated with his relatives.

The commission wants the former manager, his relatives, and related companies charged with various offences including abuse of office, conflict of interest, fraudulent procurement, and fraudulent acquisition of public property.

The report indicates that the file was forwarded to the DPP on May 25, 2021.

During the period covered by the report, the commission forwarded 33 files to the DPP, with 20 of them recommending prosecution and five administrative action. In eight others the commission recommended closure.

However, the DPP only accepted to prosecute two. On the recommendations for administrative action the DPP accepted two while on closure he accepted five.

The DPP returned 10 files asking the commission to conduct further investigations while 13 others are awaiting his advice.

The two files that the DPP accepted to prosecute involve bribery. The first one is the prosecution of the chairman of Kitengela Sacco for offering a bribe of Sh20,000 to the deputy director in charge of compliance and licencing at the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). The bribe was an inducement for the passenger service vehicles operating within Kitengela route to operate business contrary to the public service vehicle regulations.

The other case that the DPP accepted prosecution involves an employee of Kiambu Water and Sewerage Company Limited (KWCL) who alleged requested a bribe of Sh10,000, which had been negotiated from Sh30,000, to re-connect water at the complainant’s mother’s home in Kiambu. The suspect was a water supply assistant based at Gatundu Water and Sanitation Company.

Among the inquiry files that the DPP returned to the commission for further investigations is on allegations that a former Fafi Constituency MP embezzled Sh13 million raised through a harambee to refurbish the infrastructure at Bura High School.

The EACC commenced investigations upon receipt of a report in June 2015.

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