Dodgy Josephine Kabura angers MPs in NYS probe

Josephine Kabura responds to questions on NYS tenders when she appeared before the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday. PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/STANDARD

NAIROBI: Kenyans listened with consternation as a key suspect in the National Youth Service (NYS) looting spree admitted to receiving Sh1.6 billion.

But Josephine Kabura could not produce a single receipt for the pay-outs that flowed from her fat bank accounts, ostensibly to suppliers.

Ms Kabura not only walked away from prime sections of her previous affidavit in which she implicated key personalities then at the Devolution ministry in the siphoning of cash, but stunned the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly when she said she could not remember what she was paying for from the bank statements, even when the cash transfers were in the usual range of millions of shillings.

It further emerged that some of the former hairdresser's frozen accounts currently have balances of less than Sh300, raising concerns about whether some cash may have been taken away by the time the asset recovery authority froze the accounts.

The Standard was shown two of her accounts containing Sh79 and Sh250.

Among those paid by Kabura are Farouk Kibet, an aide of the Deputy President, who was given Sh1 million and later Sh500,000. She could not tell or could not 'remember' what Mr Kibet supplied.

In the end, the committee threatened her with dire consequences because they saw in her a conspirator who was deliberately feigning ignorance and poor memory to protect the architects of the scandal that cost then Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru her job.

The open session was later closed as Kabura was pressed to explain the source of Sh1.6 billion paid to her multiple companies in 15 months.

She shocked MPs with admissions that her 20 firms raked in the money, some of which she funnelled to other individuals, sometimes in cash withdrawals of up to Sh100 million a day.

PAC members challenged her to provide evidence of payments to firms she sourced goods and services from as proof that she was not merely a conduit for the looting.

But Kabura was unable to, for instance, give names of owners of quarries she claimed to have paid millions of shillings to for construction materials.

MPs raised the red flag more than once about millions of shillings Kabura paid to individuals, including John Kago, a driver who has featured in the saga for his dealings with huge amounts of money and whom Kabura claimed to have loaned Sh60 million.

She also admitted yesterday to planning meetings with key people mentioned in the saga, including Ms Waiguru.

After much cajoling by committee members, Kabura also gave an account of how she met with Waiguru, in the company of senior Devolution ministry administrator Hassan Noor and former NYS Deputy Director General Adan Harakhe, during which the NYS scam was hatched.

In the closed-door session, she told the MPs she would be given local purchasing orders (LPOs), one of which was for the provision of building materials for works in Kibera slums.

"The LPOs were given in sequence. I would finish one job before getting the next LPO," she revealed.

Stunningly, she admitted before the lawmakers that the quarry from which she extracted the materials was not hers, but belonged to NYS, which meant that although she had won the tender, she was going to source materials from NYS property.

"Although she had won the tender, the quarry was not hers. Even the lorries transporting material were not hers," revealed an MP who attended the session.

During the open session earlier in the day, Kabura gave the parliamentary team a difficult time, refusing to answer direct questions and often referring the committee to her affidavit filed in court. She chose to issue half-hearted answers, much to the chagrin of MPs, who at one time threatened to declare her a hostile witness.

"You can try and hide the architects of this scheme, but I can assure you that having been in this country for the better part of five decades that you won't succeed," warned PAC chairman Nicholas Gumbo.

For over four hours, Kabura, who admitted to being the sole proprietor of 20 companies that received payments totalling Sh1.674 billion from NYS, evaded questions and disowned some of the suspects.

It also emerged that Kabura met Waiguru long before she was the Devolution CS. At the time, she worked as an IT expert at the Kenya Data Networks while Waiguru was the director of Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS) at the National Treasury.

Kabura, who had failed to appear before the team on three previous occasions, told the MPs she registered 20 companies to increase her chances of getting tenders, and even revealed she had tendered against herself sometimes to boost the odds of her clinching contracts.

She maintained that she only met businessman Ben Gethi, a fellow suspect in the scam, in court, and pointed out she gave a soft loan of Sh60 million to Kago, although she claimed she did not know how much he repaid her.

At one point, Kabura, who in the past was Waiguru's hairdresser, nearly disowned her former client. It took the efforts of the MPs to pin her down for her to admit that Waiguru introduced her to people at NYS.

Kabura was questioned by PAC members, led by Gumbo.

Gumbo: What was your relationship with Ms Anne Waiguru?

Kabura: There was no relationship between me and Ms Waiguru.

Gumbo: You mean you do not know her?

Kabura: I mean there is no blood relationship between me and her.

John Mbadi (Suba): Chairman (Gumbo) please help the witness relax. She should not withhold any information from this committee.

Gumbo: Have you met her (Waiguru)? Remember there are documents to prove that there was a relationship between the two of you. You were close to each other.

Kabura: I have met her, I know her. I have submitted documents in court with details of how we are related.

Gumbo: How did you start doing business with NYS? How did you know of business at NYS?

Kabura: I was contacted by a general contact at NYS, at the procurement department office, asking if I could supply some materials.

Gumbo: Are you finding it difficult to tell us the truth? Are you afraid of mentioning the names of people you mentioned in your document that was submitted elsewhere?

Kabura: I cannot comment on that matter, it is before the court.

Gumbo: Why are you not willing to give us names? The affidavit you filed in court is now a public document.

Mbadi: I am worried that Ms Kabura is misleading the committee. According to her own affidavit, her dealings with NYS and former CS Waiguru are clearly spelt out. I am afraid that if we continue this way, we are wasting time. According to her affidavit, even the idea of registering the companies under her name was Waiguru's. It is the former CS who initiated the process of getting the tenders. We should not sit here and watch a witness lie to us.

Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba): We appreciate it when young people like Kabura get opportunities to do business with Government. But you get the feeling that she is not prepared to tell us who she was dealing with at the NYS. You cannot say you contacted an office, there is a particular person you dealt with.

Gumbo: You must answer the question, Kabura. Who contacted you at the NYS? Who in particular connected you to people at the department? You cannot say an institution contacted you. You have to tell us.

Kabura: (After a long silence) It is Anne Waiguru who introduced me to people at NYS. I supplied construction materials, vector control materials and preventive clothing.

Gumbo: Businessman John Kago who appeared before this committee last week said you gave him a loan of Sh60 million, which he was supposed to repay in five months at an interest of 10 per cent. How did you give him the money? What was your relationship?

Kabura: Mr Kago is my good friend. I loaned him the money as a friend and he repaid it back to me within one year.

Abdikadir Aden: My scrutiny of the bank statements show that in addition to the big amounts, you have made small payments through direct bank transfers, to several people with amounts totalling over Sh60 million. I would like to know who these people are and what you paid them for.

Kabura: They offered and supplied me several services. I need time to give a breakdown of what they gave to me, as I paid a lot of people and companies.

Clement Wambugu (Mathioya): Among the people paid by Ms Kabura is a prominent person. One Mr Farouk Kibet, who was paid Sh1 million and later Sh500,000. She cannot tell us that she cannot remember what Mr Kibet supplied.

Kabura: I need to be given time to go and scrutinise each of the individual bank transfers I made at that time.

Gumbo: What was the source of the money? How much did he pay you back?

Kabura: I got the cash from my businesses. I do not recall how much he gave me back.

Kanini Kega (Kieni): Kago told this committee that he repaid the money in one month. How can she not recall that? Was there any written document between the two of you?

Kabura: There was a written agreement. About the time and the amount I was given back, I cannot remember. I will get the document later to confirm; I didn't carry it here.

Mbadi: This witness must be withholding a lot of information from this committee. It is shocking that she can claim she doesn't have a clear memory about it. She should be a bit more candid.

Aden: Kabura is not being honest with this committee. An analysis of her bank account from January to March 2015 shows you gave Kago various amounts of money ranging from Sh10 million to Sh40 million, with the amount totalling over Sh60 million.

Gumbo: You should answer all questions to the satisfaction of all the members or I will declare you a hostile witness.

Aden: From February 2015, your firm, Roof and All Trading, received huge payments from the State Department of Planning. Bank statements show that withdrawals were made on the same day. The systematic withdrawals within a day, which saw you withdrawing even up to Sh100 million, is suspect. What was the money for?

Kabura: It was to pay for the building and construction materials at the Kibera Slum upgrading and road projects. It was to pay for the materials delivered to the site. People at the quarry also needed to be paid. That is why I withdrew large sums of money.

Mbadi: Tell us, how did you carry the money? Sh100 million is equivalent to about 100kg. Did you have guards? Helpers?

Kabura: I carried the money in carrier cases. I put the money in three cases and took it to the quarry to pay workers.

Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren): Money used to be deposited into your accounts and you withdrew it all immediately to go and pay for the supplies. Does it mean you never earned any profit from the business?

Kabura: No one goes to business without profit in their mind.

Aden: Ms Kabura, there is no harm in admitting that you were being used... as payments and withdrawals were made by different people. You have even presented fake documents, including LPOs to this committee.

Kabura: I wasn't the one who prepared the documents. In any business you are supposed to deliver as per the LPO.

Simiyu: But the truth is, you never supplied anything, not a pebble, let alone air... what you have is just papers.

Kabura: I was paid for work done. I actually paid for the materials sourced from the quarry in Ngong.

Gonzi Rai (Kinango): Do you have any evidence to show that you made payments, like receipts? Do you have the names of the owners of quarries?

Kabura: I cannot recall the names of the quarry owners. I will need time. The transactions were done long ago.

The unsatisfactory answers angered Gumbo who threatened to kick Kabura out of the room for being a hostile witness and refusing to co-operate with his team.

"You had a chance to redeem yourself before this committee but unfortunately you chose to take us round in circles and protect other people. You will carry your own cross," warned the Rarieda MP.

The afternoon session was held in camera.