EACC boss: We have recovered Sh22 billion of stolen assets

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) CEO Twalib Mbarak. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

In the past year, he says EACC has targeted county and national government officials to bring sanity in the public service by arraigning four sitting governors and county and national government officials.

Governors Mike Sonko (Nairobi), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu) and Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) have been charged in court with graft-related cases, as well as former governors Evans Kidero and Daniel Waithaka. 

“In 2019, we filed several civil suits to recover government assets especially land and property allocated irregularly to former powerful government officers and their associates,” he said. 

He says the commission has conducted several system reviews for government organisations and entities and educational awareness as a way of addressing the issue of corruption.

SEE ALSO :EACC arrests ex-deputy Auditor General

How many cases and top officials are under probe and nature of charges?

There are numerous governors, MPs and county officials and top government officials on our radar. In fact, we are through with investigating three county bosses . The other cases are active, however, the suspension of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act by the court has slowed the process. We have sought an advisory at the Supreme Court.

Irregular compensation for land and abuse of office by former Chairman of the National Land Commission Muhammad Swazuri and senior officials involving Sh109 million.

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Deputy Auditor General Stephen Kinuthia and other senior officials for alleged irregular procurement of Audit Vault Software at office of the Auditor General involving Sh100 million.

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and other senior county officials for alleged irregular award of tender amounting to Sh588 million. 

SEE ALSO :Six arrested over Sh100m IFMIS software scam as 10 remain at large

Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal for alleged conflict of interest in supply of fuel to Samburu County Government amounting to Sh84 million 

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and other senior County officials for irregular payments for garbage collection services in Nairobi County amounting to Sh357 million.

Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong is charged among others with scheme to defraud county of Sh8 million between March and September 2014.

One of the strategies being employed by EACC is investigation of High Impact Cases based on persons involved, value of loss and public interest. Some of the recent cases that we have concluded and top officials charged include: 

Kisumu Speaker Onyango Oloo, former Lake Basin Development Authority Peter Managing Director Anguko Abuok and other senior LBDA officials for alleged irregular procurement and inflation of cost of construction of Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) mall amounting to Sh4.1 billion. 

SEE ALSO :Ex-deputy AG in fraud case

Cash held as exhibits in old currency, what happens to those cases?

Before the end of September 30, 2019 when Sh1,000 notes were demonetised, EACC returned the old currencies in its possession to the Central Bank of Kenya to record the value and demonetise the notes. The notes were then returned to the commission for purposes of being used as evidence in the ongoing cases. 

Low conviction rate, what are you doing to improve this... could it be about evidence?

The commission strives to ensure that the evidence collected meet the set threshold for a likelihood to result to a conviction. The evidence is further subjected to an independent review by the Director of Public Prosecutions who has to satisfy himself on the strength of the evidence placed before him.  

A low conviction therefore means there are other factors that come to play beside the evidence in an inquiry file. For instance, slow judicial process may result in death of key witnesses, witnesses being compromised or intimidated among others. These examples may affect the strength of a cases and result to acquittal. 

SEE ALSO :Sh49m gone but no school

The commission is working closely with other players in the criminal justice chain to strengthen collaboration, coordination and cooperation through various outfits such as Multi-Agency Team, which involves law enforcement agencies and the National Council on Administration of Justice that brings together a wider network of agencies. 

How do you sensitise public on national values, ethics, especially regarding politicians obtaining clearance to contest despite questionable past? For instance, EACC is after Nairobi governor yet he secured the nod of relevant agencies. 

The commission employs a multi-pronged approach to raise awareness on the dangers of corruption and to implore on the public to elect leaders of integrity.

The strategies which include media outreach, training and integrity clubs target various sectors of our society from professional bodies, market places, religious sector and most importantly the young children.

We, however, as a country need to indoctrinate our national values in all our endeavours and to remain true patriots.

There is a worrying trend in our society to glorify the corrupt and the unjust in the society. The bar on matters touching on ethics and integrity is so high and almost similar to criminal offenses of beyond reasonable doubt. 

The EACC undertakes vetting of persons seeking elective positions and recommends their suitability or otherwise to the IEBC. EACC does not have the power to enforce its recommendations to the IEBC. 

How is your relationship with ODPP, DCI and Asset Recovery Agency?

Contrary to the public perception, which is fuelled by corruption fighting back, the commission enjoys a great working relationship with ODPP, DCI and Asset Recovery Agency.

There is no sibling rivalry among the agencies and the silo mentality which may have existed due to government bureaucracy and red-tape was brought down through the Multi Agency Team approach.

For example EACC investigators undertake basic investigations course upon employment which is facilitated by the DCI.

We also facilitate specialised joint training of officers from DCI, ODPP and ARA. 

On the other hand the success in prosecution of corruption by the ODPP is dependent on the quality of investigations by EACC as well as DCI.

We all recognise this fact and we hold bi-weekly meeting to thrash out any investigative gaps.

Our lawyers also support the prosecutors during prosecutions of cases in court.

We are continuously working to strengthen the criminal justice system as we are as strong the weakest link. 

What is the main achievements in the last year since you joined the commission?   

In 2019, we recovered public assets which were illegally acquired by individual worth approximately Sh22.56 billion and averted loss worth approximately Sh135 billion through disruptions. 

This is a significant improvement compared to Sh2.4 billion recovered and Sh14.5 billion of loss averted in 2018. It is an indication that the focus in strengthening our asset tracing and recovery units is bearing fruits.

In 2019, we have also finalised investigations into high impact cases touching on both levels of governments.

What are your challenges so far?

Budget constraints: Budget allocation for FY 2019-20 is Sh 2.9 billion; out of which Sh 1.9 billion (66 per cent) is set aside for emoluments and the balance being Sh996 million (34 per cent) is to be utilised for operations.

This is not adequate to counter the scourge of corruption in the country.  

High staff turn-over particularly for specialised professions such as lawyers and forensic investigators due to their specialised skills making them highly marketable in the financial, banking and international sectors. 

Slow judicial process. For example, there are at least 357 cases worth approximately Sh8.5 billion pending at various Land and Environment Court in the country where the commission seeks to recover public property.

However, the backlog in the courts hinders expeditious disposal as the next available date for hearing a fresh matter is sometime next year. 

Interference with witnesses/evidence – interference with key witnesses through bribes or threats and intimidation and arson of offices particularly in county governments to destroy evidence. 

Have you ever received a call from any quarter seeking to influence investigations?

No. 

How many files are lying at your desk waiting for action?

None. When an investigation is concluded the file is reviewed by the Enforcement Committee of the commission which is chaired by a commissioner.

The results of the investigations with the recommendations is then submitted to the DPP as required by law.  

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EACCTwalib MbarakMike SonkoFerdinand Waititu