The biggest corruption trial involving the National Youth Service (NYS) got underway yesterday with 54 suspects taking pleas in a lengthy court session that dragged into the night.
From the lowest rank official to the top most managers of NYS, 40 public officials including a principal secretary, those on the dock also included business people and companies that prosecutors alleged received millions of shillings without providing any goods and services.
The mood inside and outside the anti-corruption court summed up the nation's attention to the case, with a sizeable crowd packing the courtroom, where the suspects who endured over 10 hours, from the time they were taken from police cells to Milimani Courts, listened and pleaded to charges in 10 different files.
Principal Secretary for Youth and Gender Affairs Lillian Omollo, NYS Director-General Richard Ndubai, his assistant Nicholas Ahere, former director Sammy Michuki and Finance Director Wellington Lubira led the list of top managers who faced several charges of defrauding NYS Sh468 million.
Also charged were junior employees who included storekeepers, examiners, invoicers, IFMIS buyers, accountants and cheque approvers said to have had a hand in the chain of operations leading to loss of public funds.
Not spared too was a family of four whose company trading by the name Annwaw Investments Limited was allegedly paid close to Sh60 million for supplying nothing to NYS. The accused were Ann Ngirita, Lucy Ngirita, Phylis Njeri and Jeremiah Ngirita.
According to the prosecution, the well choreographed conspiracy involved 40 NYS staff, 14 business directors and proprietors and 10 companies.
As proof that the investigations were wide and sought to capture all involved in one of the biggest scandals, four internal auditors from the National Treasury directly linked to approving payments of government funds were also charged.
The four Treasury staff are Lucas Owino, Stephen Riungu, Josephat Njoroge and Peter Muthomi.
Also in the charge sheet were former in charge of operations at Huduma Centre George Ouma, head of accounts Sammy Mbugua and head of procurement Simon Kiiru.
The magnitude of the case made Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to prepare 10 separate files relating to the same transaction in an effort to prepare adequately to prove that the 54 accused persons committed economic crimes.
In the first file, Ms Omollo, Ndubai, Ahere, Michuki and 30 other NYS officials were charged with five counts of conspiracy to commit economic crimes, wilful failure to comply with procurement rules and abuse of office leading to the loss of Sh28 million.
“Between January 2015 and June 2017, the accused persons jointly engaged in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud NYS by paying Sh28,766,700 to Ameri Trade Limited for goods not supplied to NYS,” read the charge sheet.
The PS and the director-general faced the most charges in the first file over allegations that they misused their offices to authorise the payments even when the goods purported to have been supplied were ‘hot air’.
In the second file, the NYS officials were charged with conspiracy to defraud Sh26 million by making payments to several companies without following the right procedures.
The third file contained all the NYS officials and the four family members said to have been paid Sh59.8 million without supplying anything to NYS.
According to the charges, the officials conspired with the family and wilfully failed to comply with procurement rules to approve payment of Sh59,856,750.
The four family members were additionally charged with fraudulent acquisition of public property for illegally claiming and receiving the money in their company, Annwaw Investments accounts.
In the fourth file, 34 suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit an economic crime which had the biggest amount of conspiracy to defraud Sh116 million without supplying goods.
Ms Omollo and Ndubai were additionally charged with wilful failure to properly manage public funds and receiving a benefit of Sh24 million from the proceeds.
Ndubai was further accused of illegally conferring himself with additional Sh10 million benefits for authorising the payments.
Michuki and two accountants, David Kirui and Jamal Duba were charged in another file with falsifying accounts books after signing that the goods were delivered when none had been supplied.
In the seventh file, the suspects were alleged to have colluded with several business proprietors and their companies to defraud a total of Sh72 million.
Jeremiah Ngirita, who was trading as Jerrycathy Enterprises, was said to have illegally acquired and hid the Sh72 million at his bank account with Kenya Commercial Bank.
The intrigues of the charges saw anti-corruption Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti sitting late into the night after he declined to adjourn the matter to today.
“We must proceed to the end, even if sitting up to midnight until all applications are heard. Security is not an issue when it comes to matters of great public interest,” said Ogoti.
The accused persons were contesting the DPP’s move to have the cases read separately and their opposition to be released on bail.
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