NHIF officials released on bail as DPP intends to press two separate charges touching on three scandals

NHIF CEO Geoffrey Gitau and Gilbert Kurgat in the dock at a Milimani court . They are facing charges of conspiracy to defeat justice . [Photo: George Njunge / Standard]

National Hospital Insurance Fund top officials were on Wednesday released by the court on a Sh Sh 1 million bond or Sh 500,000 cash bail.

Milimani Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi also directed that NHIF boss Geoffrey Mwangi and Director of Finance Wilbert Kurgat should co-operate with investigators Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) who are probing a multi-million-shilling contract issued to Webtribe Limited.

 Although the prosecution had prayed that the two be blocked from accessing their offices the magistrate declined to issue orders.

The Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji had asked the court to detain the two, and that in the event they were to be released, they ought to be ordered to keep off their offices, not to call any former or current employee of NHIF. Hajji asked that they be banned from making any comment on social or mainstream media and deposit their passports in court.

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Mr. Andayi observed that the prosecution had not put up a case to have Kurgat and Gitau locked up in remand as the case which they are accused of denying investigators documents continues.

He noted that the case before him was putting the DPP in a precarious situation as the same documents at the center of the case might be used to prosecute the two in a separate case.

“The seriousness of investigations in NHIF cannot be ignored. At the same time, it is a matter of public interest. However, we are not dealing with the loss of billions of shillings as the prosecution argued.  The Prosecution has not explained how failure to lock the accused will deny them the documents,” ruled Andayi.

 He continued, “As I conclude, I must admit that I find the circumstances presenting in this case at this stage quite challenging to the prosecution because in prosecuting its objection on the release of the accused persons on bond it inevitably has to go beyond the charges, it has to go to the realm of the evidence that is meant to be tendered at the trial in the case that will be.”

 The court also found that prosecution had not put up a believable case to the court that the two would abscond court hearings in the event they are released.

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He noted that for the court to detain the two, there must be among other things, a wanting character of the two, and consequently there would be a likelihood of witness interference and cause of unrest if they are released.

Mr. Andayi said that he was not persuaded by the prosecution’s plea as he had not given evidence to buttress his argument.

It also emerged that DCI is investigating 14 NHIF employees with an intent to charge them with conspiracy to defraud and misappropriation of public funds.

Other NHIF employees who were in the probe list are Gilbert Kamau (director ICT), Nichodemus Odongo (director strategy and planning), Dinah Kirwa (director corporate services), Gibson Muhoho (head of registration), Johnston Ouma (procurement officer), Hannah Muriithi, Abdul Galgalo, Grace Gathoni, Naomi Ouma, Gilbert Osoro and Kimulwen Chesaina.

New charges

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DCI claims that a whistle-blower approached them at their Kiambu headquarters on September 18 this year and disclosed that massive fraud was ongoing in the health insurer.

Documents seen by The Standard indicate the whistle-blower raised three scandals happening in NHIF.  The first allegation is that there were irregular tenders which had been issued,

In addition, it was claimed that crucial members’ registers were being tampered with and that there were dubious accreditation of hospitals offering the health scheme.

Lead investigator, police chief inspector Nephat Marubu in an application to be allowed by the court to search the 14 and NHIF offices said that DCI will audit NHIF server systems and at the same time will hard copies of books and vouchers to ascertain if the information leaked is true or not.

“The applicant (DCI) is carrying out an investigation relating to conspiracy to defraud and misappropriation of public funds at NHIF.  I have a reason that crucial evidence in regard to this investigation can be obtained in NHIF offices, private residencies and business premises of the respondents,” said Marubu.

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In court senior assistant Director of Public Prosecution Alexander Muteti said the probe involve Sh 2 billion.

The case will be mentioned on December 10 at the City Court.

NHIFScandalFrancis AndayiGeoffrey MwangiWilbert KurgatWebtribe Limited