Court drops Sh1.9b graft case against KPC bosses

Former KPC Managing Director Joe Sang (left), company Secretary Gloria Khafafa (centre) and head of procurement  Vincent Cheruiyot at Milimani Law Courts in December 2018. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]

It has been four years of anguish for former Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) Managing Director Joe Sang as he faced trial over allegations of illegally approving a Sh1.9 billion contract.

The pain, shame and humiliation of losing his job after being paraded in the dock has, however, come to an end after Anti-Corruption Senior Principal Magistrate Victor Wakumile acquitted him alongside five former KPC senior managers who were facing the same charges.

“I honestly do not understand why they were charged in the first place when all the witnesses confirmed that the contract for construction of the Kisumu Oil Jetty was above board and some of the accused had not even joined KPC at the time the contract was awarded,” ruled Wakumile.

The magistrate turned his guns on the investigating agencies and questioned why they dragged the six individuals for a contract that was perfectly executed and should have been used an example of how government entities should operate in awarding contracts.

According to the magistrate, the project to construct the Kisumu Oil Jetty went through rigorous checks and balances and there is no way the six accused persons could be held responsible.

“This is one of those clear cases where people who did a commendable job ended up being vilified. They should have even been given a head of state commendation for doing a good job,” said Wakumile.

Sang was facing the charges alongside former KPC company Secretary Gloria Khafafa, manager supply chain Vincent Cheruiyot, manager infrastructure Billy Aseka, procurement manager Nicholas Gitobu and general manager for finance Samuel Odoyo. They faced eight counts of abuse of office, failure to comply with procurement rules and engaging in a project without planning. In the first count, all the accused were charged with engaging in a project without prior planning between July 1 2016 and June 30 2017 at KPC headquarters in Nairobi by approving the construction of the Kisumu Oil Jetty amounting to Sh1,963,065,422.

Sang faced additional two charges of abuse of office and willful failure to comply with applicable procedures and guidelines relating to management of public funds.

The others faced additional charges of abuse of office and using their positions at KPC to improperly confer a benefit to Southern Engineering Company Ltd by executing the contract in respect to the tender for the construction of Kisumu Oil Jetty at a cost that exceeded the approved budget.

Mr Wamukile, however, ruled that there was nothing to prove that the accused persons inflated the cost of the contract since they worked within the budget that was approved by KPC Board of Directors.

On the count of engaging in the project to construct the Kisumu Oil Jetty without prior planning, the magistrate ruled that the project was planned way back in 2006 and approved by several KPC Boards and government auditors who confirmed it was value for money.

“The prosecution’s own witnesses including the investigating officer confirmed that the project was properly planned and had budget approved budget allocation. No evidence was tendered to prove the accused were engaged in the planning exercise,” ruled Wakumile.