National Treasury CS Henry Rotich, PS Kamau Thugge and other officials on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges in the multibillion-shilling Kimwarer and Arror dams’ scandal.
The officials are facing 24 charges among them abuse of office, conspiracy to defraud and engaging in a project without planning.
In a grey striped suit and a polka-dotted yellow tie, CS Rotich wore a pensive look as did PS Thugge in a mutedly checked grey suit and a similarly dotted maroon tie before Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti.
The prosecution team is led by Taib Ali Taib and assisted by Alexander Muteti, Victor Owiti and Emily Kamau.
The defence team comprises Katwa Kigen, Kioko Kilukumi, Philip Nyachoti, Kipchumba Murkomen, Kevin Anami Mwai Mugo, Stephen Kimathi, Mahat Samane and Jinaro Kibet.
The officials had spent most of the morning in the cold cells of Milimani Law Court as they awaited to be arraigned over the multibillion-shilling Kimwarer and Arror dams scandal.
The two were among the 28 officials who spent a night in police custody following yesterday’s arrest. They include KVDA acting MD Francis Kipkech and other senior officers named in the dams scandal
DPP Noordin Haji ordered their arrest following a nine-month probe into the stalled Sh65 billion dams that were to be constructed in Elgeyo Marakwet.
The multi-billion-shilling scandal involves the construction of two dams.
Rotich first recorded a statement with the DCI over the stalled Sh65 billion dam projects in the country in February.
On March 6, the CS was again grilled for a day as investigations into the dam projects intensified.
He appeared before detectives at the DCI headquarters to explain what he knew about the controversy-ridden Arror and Kimwarer dam projects.
According to insiders, the CS responded to many questions that saw him record statements of more than a dozen pages.
On March 27, CSs Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), Peter Munya (East Africa and Regional Development) and Adan Mohamed (East African Community) were also questioned.
Kiunjuri was appearing before the team of investigators, with sources saying he was summoned to “clarify a number of issues that had emerged".
Kiunjuri was at the helm of the Devolution ministry when contracts awarding the construction of the Kimwarer and Arror dams in Elgeyo Marakwet to CMC Di Ravenna were signed.
Wamalwa, on the other hand, was the minister for Water and Irrigation from July 2015 to January 26 last year when he was handed his current docket.
All past and current principal secretaries from the time the projects were conceptualised were also summoned and questioned.
The dams scandal, which DPP Haji termed as one of the biggest corruption cases in the country in recent times, saw Kenya enlist the help of Italy, UK and Dubai to finally crack the case and get much-needed evidence to commence prosecution.
In a press conference on Monday, DPP Haji said “if the projects were carried out in adherence to the law and existing policies for safeguarding the public interest, then it should not have cost Sh63 billion. We have evidence to prove Sh19,714,366,991 was lost through a well-choreographed scheme to defraud public funds.”
The investigative team said they were also provided with CCTV footage of meetings between Kenyan officials and Italians, where the deals were reportedly negotiated.
The Scandal elicited a political debate in the country, with DP William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga being caught in a war of words.
On February 28, DP Ruto denied reports that Sh21 billion allocated to the dam projects in Elgeyo-Marakwet has been lost.
“It is a flat lie, the money in question is Sh7 billion and for every coin that has been paid, we have a bank guarantee, no money will be lost because we are a responsible Government, we have engaged all arms of the Government to ensure that public resources are safe,” DP Ruto said.
And on March 6, Raila was quoted telling Ruto to allow agencies tasked with fighting corruption to do their jobs.
“If we are talking about the theft in the dams project, don't come and tell us it was not Sh20 billion, it was only Sh7 billion. Let the investigating authorities complete their investigations. Who are you to tell us? How did you know?” Raila posed.
Raila further claimed that politicians have politicised war on graft thus hindering the process to tame it. “Development will not happen unless we tame corruption. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon. The difference is the actions taken once it is discovered.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta had made it clear that no one, including himself, would be spared in the ongoing war against corruption. He said that if anyone had any evidence that he was corrupt, they should hand it to the DCI promptly.
The Arror and Kimwarer projects are being undertaken by the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), a body that was established in 1979 to undertake planning, coordination and implementation of integrated river-based development programmes in the Kerio Valley Basin.
If and when completed, the Arror dam will produce more than 60 megawatts of electricity and the Kimwarer dam 20 megawatts, which will be connected to the national power grid.
The project was also meant to ensure more supply of water for domestic use, as well as irrigation, by expanding dam networks across the country.
[Additional Reporting by Cyrus Ombati and Roselyne Obala]
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