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Mbarire tried to bribe me, says anti-corruption boss

BUSINESS
By | August 23rd 2011

By Peter Orengo

Kenya Anti-Corruption director PLO Lumumba on Monday sensationally claimed that an Assistant minister and her husband tried to influence him from undertaking investigations into graft allegations at the Water ministry.

Prof Lumumba claimed that Assistant Minister Cecily Mbarire and husband Dennis Apaa made a change of heart after learning of a planned sting operation, thereby evading arrest on Monday.

But in a rejoinder, Mbarire termed Lumumba’s allegations “false and alarming” and warned of legal action against the anti-graft buster.

Lumumba showed the media an SMS allegedly sent by Mbarire notifying him that they had been unable to show up as planned at the Integrity Centre.

Mr Apaa is one of the directors of Broad Vision Utilities Ltd, a company cited as one of those doing business with Tanathi Water Services Board, and now under KACC investigation.

“The (KACC) director had received information that Apaa wanted to meet the director with a view to compromise him. We set up surveillance equipment ready to arrest the individuals. It seems that they were tipped off by someone at the last minute and we were unable to arrest them,” said Lumumba.

Lumumba told journalists that the couple had been trying to bribe him for several weeks now by proxy, unaware that he had a clue as to their mission.

The latest incident, he said, was when Apaa wrote a cheque for Sh100,000 to the PLO Lumumba Foundation, which the KACC director declined to accept.

“I told him that I preferred cash when he presented me with the cheque. We then put up an elaborate surveillance system to ensure we nab him,” said Lumumba.

But last night, an angry Mbarire said Lumumba’s allegations were only meant to taint her name.

“The allegations made this morning by the Director of KACC, PLO Lumumba, are false, untrue, malicious and can only be interpreted to malign my name and character in the eyes of the public,” said Mbarire.

The terse statement was released late in the evening after the Assistant Tourism minister had earlier cancelled a press conference indicating that her lawyers had advised against issuing a press statement then.

“I am currently consulting my lawyers and I will be issuing a comprehensive statement tomorrow,” said Mbarire.

The anti-corruption czar claimed the two were to deliver some Sh100,000 at 6.30am on Monday and discuss further consideration of an offer of more money to interfere with investigations on Apaa over multi-million-shilling contracts at the Water ministry.

Lumumba took journalists to a room adjacent to his office at the Integrity Centre where he showed them a series of text messages he alleged were from the couple, and documents showing how the Monday morning meeting and the counter-operation had been arranged.

“We had made all these arrangements with my technical team since (Sunday) night. (My team and I) were in the office from as early as 4.30am waiting for them,” he added.

Lumumba said it was the first time individuals had tried to bribe him personally over cases being investigated by the commission.

Last Friday, KACC announced that it had opened a fresh investigation into another set of controversial projects in the Ministry of Water, especially on misuse of funds meant for several borehole projects in Makueni and Machakos counties under the emergency drought relief programme in 2009.

“We sent two files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) containing high voltage evidence that will be used to prosecute several ministry officials suspected of corruption. Some of these individuals have been busy looking for ways to stop the cases,” claimed Lumumba.

He said DPP Keriako Tobiko had already given a go-ahead for the officials to be charged with fraud.

The Ant-Corruption boss said Monday’s events are a culmination of two months of investigation involving surveillance on individuals who have been attempting to compromise commission officers.

“We have gathered enough evidence, including the communication between the director and the individuals, which we have forwarded to the Criminal Investigation Department,” said Lumumba.

In last Friday’s statement released by Public Relations Officer Nicholas Simani, KACC said it was starting its investigations by collecting documents and recording statements from a number of witnesses, including officials at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

Among top ministry officials questioned by KACC was Water minister Charity Ngilu, who appeared before the commission last December.

Ngilu was asked to shed light on issues touching on parastatals in her ministry, particularly the Tanathi Water Services Board and the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation.

In addition, the investigators sought insights into irregular procurement and tendering procedures in the construction of dams and the sinking of boreholes.

The minister has since been absolved of corruption allegations by a parliamentary committee.

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