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Graft agency goes after small fish as looters roam

By Paul Wafula | Published Sun, March 11th 2018 at 00:00, Updated March 10th 2018 at 21:40 GMT +3
EACC chairman Eliud Wabukala addressing the press at Integrity Centre, Wabukala stated that graft probe on outgoing governors will continue.16/8/2017 [Photo/BEVERLYNE MUSILI]

The anti-corruption watchdog is spending taxpayer’s money investigating petty and trivial cases as it glides past big scandals that have cost the country billions of shillings.

In its latest report, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) lists 52 cases it investigated between July and September 2017, none of which were tabled in Parliament in the explosive ‘list of shame’ that cost top government officials their jobs.

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Conspicuously missing from the report signed off by EACC Chairperson Eliud Wabukala and chief executive officer Halekhe Waqo is an update on the high profile cases that have rocked the country in recent months.

It keeps off the Sh2.2 billion lost after an Augusta Westland AW-139 Helicopter (5Y-NPS) crashed four months after it was acquired, despite no accident report being provided to facilitate compensation, according to the Auditor General.

Neither does it say anything about the seven Sh1.5 billion fighter jets bought by the military from Jordan, later found to be defective, and are now being used as spare parts. 

Squandered funds

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The other scandal swept under the carpet is the Sh6.3 billion squandered on loans for Ken-Ren Chemical and Fertiliser; a project which never took off under the Ministry of Agriculture.

There was nothing on allegations of misappropriation of Sh5 billion at Afya House despite the public outcry when the scandal was unearthed.

EACC steered clear off the numerous scandals unearthed by the Auditor General in various national and county governments running into billions of shillings.

Wabukala’s team has nothing new on the NYS scam and is silent on the controversial tender for the multi-billion shilling Thwake Dam project in Ukambani. It has nothing new to report on any of the big personalities mentioned in the Kenyatta report tabled in Parliament in 2015, and which named Cabinet Secretaries, governors and other top Government officials as persons of interest on major scandals. 

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Instead, the EACC is reporting on insignificant cases with low public resonance, which do not help set the right tone from the top in the fight against corruption.

Tucked inside the report is an investigation on a Sh2,500 pen holder given to the secretary of Busia County Governor Sospeter Ojamoong. EACC went ahead to investigate the matter even though the law allows public officials not to surrender a gift valued at Sh20,000 and below.

In its finding, EACC established that Ojamoong’s secretary received the Sh2,500 pen holder from the marketing team of a hotel known as Itoya.

“It was established that the gift was brought to the recipient in his official capacity as the governor and which he was allowed by the law to accept,” the report says.

EACC also reports on a joint operation it did alongside the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). The operation targeted drivers who bribe NTSA officials to avoid being tested and charged with drunk driving offences.

Closed files

“Investigations established that the suspect, being a conductor with Transline Classic Bus Company, was arrested for not being in possession of a PSV badge as required by the law and his vehicle was temporarily detained,” the report says.

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But the driver approached an NTSA officer and offered to give him Sh2,000 which was witnessed by other officers in the operation.

The commission also conducted an inquiry into allegations of financial mismanagement by a former chief executive officer of the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA). EACC says it established that the suspect presented a bachelors and masters degree certificate from Belford University, which was not recognised by the Commission of Higher Education in Kenya. The report also captures bribery allegations against a chief inspector of occupational safety and health officer at Trans Nzoia County.

In this case, three individuals were charged at a Kitale court for failing to comply with a notice from the safety office. They sought an out of court settlement but the county official instead allegedly solicited for a bribe of Sh400,000 for the matter to be resolved out of court.

“Investigations further established that the suspect took advantage of his position to intimidate the complainants,” the EACC report adds.

In Nairobi County, EACC opened an inquiry into bribery allegations against a police officer attached to Kilimani police station. But there was no evidence of an express demand of the Sh10,000 bribe, and this saw the commission recommend an administrative action.

It also opened an inquiry against a Nairobi County enforcement officer for soliciting a bribe to facilitate the release of an impounded motor cycle.There are other cases where the DPP rejected the files or returned them to the EACC to conduct further investigations.

For example,  the DPP returned the investigationfile into allegations of misappropriation of Sh5.2million at the Prisons Service Department on grounds that it lacked enough evidence.

Bribe givers

The DPP also agreed to close the inquiry file into allegations of hiking of fees paid to a law firm by the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) following a case in which three petitioners complained over a Sh75.5 million fee note that was later negotiated downwards to Sh18.5 million.

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In departure from previous cases, the EACC appeared to now be going after the people who offer bribes and not just the recipients. There was a case where the EACC investigated a suspect who carried Sh135,000 and offered the same to recruitment officers of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) at Madiany Primary School in Kisumu County. The DPP okayed the report for prosecution.

As the EACC concentrated on the ‘small fish’ as is commonly referred to in corruption cases, its own report released last month shows that the average national bribe paid for services in Kenya has increased sharply amid a scramble for tenders and jobs.

A nationwide survey by the EACC revealed that the average bribe paid for services nationwide climbed to Sh7,081.05 in 2016 from Sh5,648.58 in 2015, a 25 per cent jump.

In 2012, the average bribe paid nationwide was Sh4,601.

The auditor general also continues to reveal new scams. In the latest report, Auditor General Edward Ouko has exposed white elephant projects that gobbled up Sh10 billions of taxpayers’ money.