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Former finance officer links ex-VC to funds loss in Sh177m graft case

Former Maasai Mara University Vice-Chancellor Professor Mary Walingo (left) and her co-accused at Nakuru Central Police Station on August 26, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Former Maasai Mara Chief Finance Officer Spenser Sankale has linked former Vice-Chancellor Mary Walingo, to Sh100,000 fraud in a Sh177million corruption case.

Prof Walingo, two deputy vice-chancellors (DVCs), a finance officer and Walingo’s driver have been charged with corruption.

Walingo, her deputies Simon Kasaine (DVC Administration), John Almadi (DVC Finance), Anaclet Biket (Finance), and Noor Hassan, the VCs driver, allegedly misappropriated Sh177 million.

On Monday, Mr Sankale told Chief Magistrate Bildad Ochieng that Walingo demanded Sh100,000 claiming it was to be used for surveillance and security.

He testified that Walingo sent one of her staff to his office for the money.

“The staff came without documentation for the money. When I inquired, he said the money was supposed to be unaccountable and I should give him without documentation,” Sankale said.

Sankale said he called Walingo who confirmed she wanted the money.

He added that Walingo told him that being a financial officer, he was in a position to provide the money without a trace.

“She said she did not want her name to appear in any document related to the Sh100,000,” Sankale said.

When he hesitated, Sankale told the court that Walingo directed him to take a blank cheque to her office, which he drafted and Walingo signed.

According to Sankale, Walingo wanted no trail on the money she had demanded.

“She told me to sit down and tell her how I will account for the money,” he testified.

However, lawyers representing Walingo and her counterparts objected to Sankale’s testimony.

Lawyer Hosea Manwa said Sankale’s statement on the drafting and signing of the cheque was not in his initial witness statement.

Manwa said that Sankale’s line of testimony was an ambush to the defense team, noting that the prosecution had time to include his testimony in the statement.

Lawyer Steve Biko, said the move by the prosecution was deliberate and amounted to a trial by ambush.

He called on the court to strike out that part of the evidence from the proceedings saying the late discovery of the evidence was unfair to the accused.

“Any information presented outside the statement cannot form part and parcel of the prosecution’s case, this is trial by ambush and the State must play by the book,” said Biko.

Prosecutor Terry Kahoro said the objection was premature and was a move to block the witness from presenting the prosecution’s case.

She noted that the defence had an opportunity to cross-examine Sankale after he gavehis testimony.

The five are charged with 10 counts of corruption, abuse of office, misappropriation of funds, and stealing by person.

They allegedly conspired to misappropriate public funds amounting to Sh177,007,754 from the institution.

They have denied all the charges and are out on Sh20 million bond.

But the prosecution has applied to admit 24 audio and visual recordings implicating Walingo as evidence.

On Tuesday, Prosecutor Terry Kahoro told Nakuru Chief Magistrate Bildad Ochieng that the recordings detailed the number of times Walingo misappropriated the university funds.

Ms Kahoro said the recordings will assist the court make sound judgement in the corruption.

In oral testimony, Sankale said he also withdrew Sh854,952 under the VCs instructions without any supporting documents.

By November 2016, he noted that the amount of money had ballooned and no procurement procedures, no internal processes nor legal procedures were followed.

The saga allegedly pushed Sankale to resign in January 2017 but his friends told him no to because he will be blamed for the university’s misfortunes.

“One of my friends advised me to gather evidence proving that top officials in the university, including the VC, were involved in corruption and misappropriation of funds,” he testified.

Sankale said he then decided to purchase recording devices.

“I recorded a total of 24 occurrences; audios and videos and I want to produce the same as evidence for them to be played before the court,” said Sankale.

The defense has opposed introduction of the evidence saying no certificate has been produced to allow the same be admitted.

Lawyer  Manwa said the alleged recordings were illegally obtained and cannot be legally admitted in the court as it breached the Evidence Act.

“The prosecution has to prove that they complied with the Evidence Act before the same can be admitted in court,” said Manwa.

Lawyer Biko said there must be an expert analysis to ascertain the authenticity of the gadgets used to record the incidents.

The court will make its ruling today.