Two sheriffs in town turn Friday into dreaded day

Kenya Pipeline Company Managing Director Joe Sang at Milimani Law Courts last week. [George Njunge, Standard]
Friday was the day to spend the loot stolen from taxpayers. For top government officials, county bosses and parastatal managers, it was the day to share the proceeds of graft, buy palatial houses and drive out of their homes in luxury cars that would easily betray their quick riches.

It was also the day some would be learning how to play golf at clubs in Nairobi while tasting the finer things in life. Some would be flying to the coast for private getaways with briefcases full of cash to squander and plan for their next hit.

But the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Mohammed Haji and the country’s top detective George Kinoti have spoiled this party for hundreds of top government officials and directors of private companies this year.

Police cells

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The two have turned Fridays into one of the dreaded days to be a government officer. Targets would be rounded up and processed for trial after spending the weekend on the cold floors in filthy police cellsalongside petty thieves.

Those with corruption skeletons in their closets had their lawyers on speed dial waiting for the worst. It is the day that has also given a new rhythm to the fight against corruption.

The quick hits came early in the year when Haji expeditiously cleared the arrest and prosecution of dozens of suspects named in the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal.

As this was sinking in, the new sheriff in town would announce a new order in town when he went for governors implicated in graft. The first was Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong. He was followed by former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero who was arrested while teeing off at a golf club in Nairobi.  

Before the dust had settled, the corruption purge shifted to the Judiciary targeting the second most powerful judge in the country – Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.

SEE ALSO : EACC to go for top politicians in Sh2 billion-mall probe

Her arrest did not just embarrass the Judiciary, which ironically was preparing itself to start presiding over a series of corruption cases, it also set the tone that no one would be spared.

Kenya Power was one of the first parastatals that experienced the full weight of the anti-corruption fight. Almost its entire management was arrested and charged in July over Sh4.5 billion transformers scam, in what nearly brought the power utility firm to its knees.

The July 14 arrests threw the parastatal into a tailspin and caused its board to hold meetings late into the night to find a new team to steady the ship while its executives fought corruption charges in court. Some of the 10 executives charged include the former and current managing directors.

In August, it was the turn of the outspoken National Lands Commission (NLC) chairman Muhammad Swazuri to have his day in court.

He would be charged and later released on bail. He was arrested alongside the then Kenya Railways Managing Director Atanas Maina and five others over dubious Standard Gauge Railway compensations. 

SEE ALSO :Governor's shock after being granted Sh100m bail

In September, EACC detectives were back for Kidero at his home in Nairobi.

In the same month, the DPP went for top Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) managers in a swoop that saw the prosecution of 20 officers from various government agencies, among them KRA, for allowing importation of substandard goods.

In early October, the Thika Technical Training Institute Principal Jefferson Kariuki and six other officials were arrested over misappropriation of public funds at institute.

In the same month, former Sports CS Hassan Wario and five others were also charged over the embezzlement of funds during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The fight against corruption would also target legislators. On October 26, Lugari MP Ayub Savula was arrested for conspiring to steal Sh122million from the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology.

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But it was not until October 29 when the NYS 2 corruption case involving former PS Lilian Omollo and 36 others started in court. The NYS 2 suspects are accused of colluding and facilitating payment of Sh225 million to fictitious entities.

In November, detectives from the Serious Crimes Unit arrested four young men who created a website similar to Uwezo Fund and using the name of the First Lady, defrauded applicants millions of shillings who sent application fees for loan processing.

It was also the same month where a Mr Kennedy Muriithi and Patrick Mwangi were arrested in connection with SACCOs fraud in which customers lost millions of shillings.

The other big hits came later in November. On November 24, the DPP ordered the arrest of 13 managers at the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) among them its CEO Geoffrey Gitau Mwangi and its Finance Director Wilbert Kurgat.

This was after they denied his officers access to crucial documents. They were arraigned in court to answer charges of conspiracy to defeat justice and disobedience of lawful orders.

On November 25, the EACC instituted criminal prosecution against three Chinese working with China Roads and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) at the Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) Mombasa Terminus.

On December 5, the DPP gazetted Khawar Qureshi QC as a special prosecutor to prosecute Mwilu, irking local lawyers.

The last piece of action came on December 7 when five managers at Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), among them Joe Kimutai Sang (Managing Director), Gloria Robai Khafafa (Company Secretary), Vincent Korir Cheruiyot (GM supply Chain), Billy Letunya Aseka (GM Infrastructure) and Nicholas Gitobu (Procurement manager), were arrested.

KPC scam

The five are facing three charges in relation to the procurement of the Sh2 billion oil jetty in Kisumu.

Also on the same Friday, the arrests of 20 managers at NHIF among them the former and current CEO Simeon Ole Kirgotty and Geoffrey Gitau Mwangi began. 

Haji who has been championing both the moral and Judiciary fight against corruption says the theft of public resources denies Kenyans an opportunity to get better services.

“I have noted the emerging trend of corruption as an interwoven scheme involving persons employed by the organisation concerned, family members and friends. It is also clear most of the firms involved in such schemes are shadowy and incapable of delivering quality service for the works assigned to them,” Haji said.

“No doubt weeding out corruption from our public entities will guarantee Kenyans improved service delivery and enhance protection of public property,” Haji noted when he approved the arrest and prosecution of Kenya Power managers.

Despite an eventful year off arrests, it will need some time to prove if the fight against corruption is grounded on strong cases or will fall apart in court if on quick sand.

What is clear is that in Haji and Kinoti, the two men who are also the recipient of the presidential commendation – Chief of the Burning Spear – have given Kenyans hope in fight against corruption.

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Director of Public ProsecutionsDPPNoordin Mohammed HajiGeorge KinotiDCICorruption