Witnesses in Gladys Shollei case say she is not to blame

Former Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei (right) with her co-accused at the Milimani Law Courts during the hearing of a case in which they are charged with abuse of office. [Photo: Moses Omusula, Standard]

A witness in a corruption case against former Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei has said no procurement rules were flouted.

Samuel Kigondu, the project manager for infrastructural works undertaken by the Judiciary Tuesday denied claims by the State that Ms Shollei and seven co-accused abused their offices and flouted procurement procedures in the construction of new courts.

The accused are charged with flouting procurement regulations by arbitrarily transferring the construction site of prefabricated court houses from Mavoko to Runyenjes, a decision the State says was against the law.

Mr Kigondu also denied suggestions that a decision to pay a 50 per cent advance to Timsales Ltd for the construction of the court houses was arrived at illegally, saying it was part of the bid conditions placed by the winning bidder.

“Prosecuting the accused is a surprise because the tender documents for Timsales Ltd included a condition for 50 per cent advance repayment. This is what they submitted and it went through the tender valuation process. Then the client wrote a letter of offer that the bid had been accepted. When you accept a bid, you accept it as it is," he told Senior Principal Magistrate Liz Gicheha.

The prosecution claims that the taxpayer lost more than Sh168 million through various acts of omission and commission by the accused persons.

The witness was among those lined up to quash the case against Shollei and team, who are fighting abuse of office and flouting procurement laws charges by awarding a direct tender to Timsales Ltd and increasing the advance down payment to the company.

Tender committee

Others in the dock are former Deputy Chief Registrar Kakai Kissinger, Martin Otieno Okwata (former director, supply chain management), Benedict Abonyo Omollo (former director of finance) and tender committee members Wycliffe Wanga Ombunde, Nicholas Muturi Okemwa, Nicholas Mbeba and Thomas Oloo Atak.

Kigondu said the decision to move the site was in the best interests of the taxpayer as terminating the contract would have led to claims of damages from the company that had been awarded the contract.

He said work could not start in Mavoko as the Judiciary was unable to obtain the necessary approvals due to lack of land ownership documents.

“No works were started in Mavoko because there were challenges getting approvals from the county government to build on the site allocated. We recommended to the client to provide us with a way forward. Approvals would only be granted if we showed proof of ownership,” said Kigondu.

“It would have been more expensive for the taxpayer to terminate the contract, so a decision was taken to transfer the site to Runyenjes at no extra cost,” he added.

Prosecutor Jacob Ondari however managed to squeeze an admission from the witness that he would not know the amount of damage that would have resulted in case of a court claim from Timsales Ltd if the contract had been terminated.

“Only a court can determine that,” he said when challenged to substantiate his assertion that the taxpayer would have lost in excess of Sh30 million in the event of a court claim.

The former Judiciary registrar has denied the charges, terming them "malicious".