IG Japheth Koome when they appeared before the Senate Labour and Social Welfare Committee at the KICC, Nairobi, on June 8, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard] The Senate Labour and Social Welfare Committee has put the National Police Service to task over the slow pace of investigations into the alleged jobs scam by First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy agency in which over 8,000 youths from North Rift counties lost millions of shillings. Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome who appeared before the Committee Chaired by Julius Murgor (West Pokot Senator) in Nairobi said investigators from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters are probing the matter. Koome told the committee that officers from the Investigations Bureau and Financial Investigations Unit at DCI headquarters commenced the investigations on March 14. "The team specifically investigated the allegation of financial fraud recording statements from 290 victims from Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bomet, Kericho and Trans- Nzoia counties who availed themselves at the office of the County Criminal Investigations Officer in Eldoret," said Koome. They also obtained cash receipts from the victims to support their allegations and the dates of payment to the agency with preliminary findings suggesting that in early April 2022, there were several road shows and advertisements by local media within Uasin Gishu county. The IG told the committee that the advertisement was about First Choice Recruitment Agency based in Eldoret town that was purporting to offer job placement during World Cup Games 2022 in Qatar. Koome said interested candidates were advised to visit the agency's offices located at City Plaza for further inquiries and they were asked to pay Sh30,000 as commission and Sh10,000 as medical fee, in order to secure the jobs. He noted that on diverse dates between April 2022 and July 2022, each witness was subjected to medical examination at an adjacent room within the same building (City Plaza) after which they were referred to Eldomage Diagnostic Centre at Zion Mall for X-Ray services and were advised to wait for further communication. "When the victims visited the agency for further information, majority were informed that the delay in their travel was occasioned by the overwhelming number of applicants for the existing vacancies and the delay in visa processing by Qatar Embassy," said Koome. He said that the victims were offered a second option to select other vacancies in either Poland or Canada, or alternatively, fill out cancellation forms and wait for 90 days for refund, some of them made the cancellations awaiting to be refunded, while others paid additional money to be facilitated to travel to Poland. Koome noted that investigators sought further information from different institutions for evidential value with the National Employment Authority having confirmed that the agency is dully registered with Judy Chepchirchir and Faith Waringa as its directors and that the agency has offices located at City Plaza, Nandi Road, Uasin Gishu but their certificate expired on February 10, 2023. The IG said that the Registrar of Companies has also confirmed that Judy Chepchirchir and Faith Waringa are directors while the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board revealed that Eldom where the victims were subjected to medical examination is not registered by the board. "We are yet to receive responses from Interpol National Central Bureau Nairobi on our inquiries for invoices and agreements to ascertain the existence of the purported job opportunities in Qatar and a report from Financial Reporting Centre to establish the Bank details of the suspects within Kenya," he said. Koome told the committee that the investigation is still ongoing and those found culpable will face the law. The management of First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy Agency told the Senate in April that it did not defraud the youths of millions of shillings with promises of offering them jobs abroad terming their transaction above board. The Agency Director Judy Jepchirchir said they have deployed more than 7000 Kenyans to various companies in Qatar, Dubai, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Canada in their four years of operation and in April 2022 they received demand letters from two firms in Qatar for short term jobs. "The short-term jobs in Qatar were to commence as per the first communication in June 2022 but later the dates were changed since the FIFA World Club was rescheduled to November 2022 and after receipt of the letters we notified the National Employment Authority through in May 2022," said Jepchirchir. The Agency Director informed the committee that after the notification they advertised for the short-term jobs and started registration of the candidates after which they underwent medical tests, submitted their documents, were scheduled for interviews, E- visa application and then deployment. Jepchirchir noted that they managed to register 2011 candidates for the FIFA World Cup jobs of which 189 were deployed to European Security Services and a total of 303 were sent to Al Saraiya Security Services with 51 deployed to optimize security. She told the committee that 226 applicants were sent to Living Adventure to work in hotels as room attendants, linen attendants, receptionists, floor supervisors, store supervisors and bellmen while 58 candidates were deployed to Aamal cleaners. "I would like to inform this Senate Committee that out of the 827 candidates that we deployed for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, 718 of them are already back in the country after the completion of their contracts while 109 are still in Qatar under long term two years' contract," said Jepchirchir. She noted that they had 1184 unsuccessful candidates and so far 396 have received refunds while 358 have since transferred to the two-year program in Qatar and other destinations while 328 others are waiting to collect their refund with only 102 candidates undecided on their next step. "The reasons for unsuccessful applications were a high influx of people to Qatar from different parts of the world causing delays in Visa processing while some unsuccessful candidates failed the medical test required by the employers, while others did not have their passports ready for travel," said Jepchirchir. The Agency Director told the committee that on December 28 last year, they issued a communication notifying all the unsuccessful candidates and whose statuses have not changed to visit their new offices to chart the way forward with several options on the table for them. Jepchirchir said that one of the options for the unsuccessful applicants was for them to change to a two-year contract, change to travel to other destinations including Poland, Dubai, Lithuania, and Turkey or wait for any arising opportunity of their choice. The applicants also had an option of collecting their documents and apply for the refund under the company's terms and conditions or transfer their funds to their siblings or friends who are candidates and are in the process of deployment. "Regardless of the disruptions and untrue negative publicity labelled against our company by our competitors and people with ill motives, we are committed to serve all our clients with dedication and all our staff and stakeholders have their hands on deck and have started to rebuild our name," she said. Representatives of the youths who appeared before the committee last month claimed that the agency gave them false hopes of a bright future and they were conned between Sh40,400 and 150,000 each. Kimutai Kirui, a human rights activist from the Centre Against Torture informed the committee that most vocal victims were now living in fear after allegedly being threatened with dire consequences by those behind the rip-off. "I was offered Sh400,000 to stop pursuing this matter and when I declined I got threats against my life, I was forced to move out of Eldoret for my safety and call upon the Senate to ensure that at least 8,000 youths whose lives have been ruined get justice," claimed Kirui. The representatives of the victims said they learnt of First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy agency when Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago and Prominent Businessman David Lagat attended its launch on May 20, 2021, through roadshows and social media platforms. The committee was informed that the agency had promised to assist the youths get studies and job opportunities in Qatar, Poland, Finland and Britain.