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Witness says he excluded PS's name from graft probe

COUNTIES
By Kamau Muthoni | December 20th 2018
Linus Ndegwa in the witness dock at Milimani court. He was a witness in the ongoing KPLC graft case. [George Njunge /Standard]

Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge’s name was yesterday dragged into the Sh409 million Kenya Power (KP) scandal involving purchase of substandard transformers.

On his third day in the dock as the first prosecution witness, Linus Ndegwa said he, on his own account, decided to leave Dr Njoroge’s name out of his damning report.

Lawyer Katwa Kigen raised the question of whether the witness was aware Njoroge was at the helm of the company between 2011 and 2012, when the transformers were procured. His intention perhaps was to drive home the point that his client was a student at the time.

Mr Ndegwa, from the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA), was pressed to explain whether he knew the then accounting officer at KP, but he said he could not remember.

Katwa then asked him if he knew Dr Ben Chumo was managing director at the company before Dr Tarus took over, but he said he couldn’t remember.

He was asked if the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) had asked him to accuse the PS but he denied. He said it was his own decision to condemn Dr Njoroge in his latest evidence before court.

The magistrate asked the lawyer to repeat the question to ascertain the witness’ answer and he affirmed it.

“You remember the name of the CEO in 2011, isn’t it?” Katwa asked.

“I cannot remember,” Ndegwa replied.

When he got hard pressed to explain why he did not include the PS’s name in his report as the accounting officer at the company and his reply was Njoroge ought to have borne the responsibility.

“Do you remember whether it was the first accused person, Dr Chumo?”

“Aah, no,” he replied. “I said I cannot remember, it is human nature,” said the witness.

“There are two accounting officers in this room. In regard to 2011/2012, do you remember whether it is Dr Tarus?” posed the lawyer, but Ndegwa said he could not recall.

Then Katwa asked him about Njoroge and he said he could not also recall.

At this point, the prosecution rose to object Katwa’s question, saying the witness had already said he could not remember who the accounting officer was.

“I put it to you Mr Ndegwa that DCI told you to make sure you do not mention Mr Njoroge,” Katwa said, but Ndwegwa replied no.

“You decided on your own?” asked Katwa.

He replied with a yes but was not audible enough for the court to record.

“Sorry, repeat the question,” magistrate Felix Kombo asked Katwa.

“Not to mention Mr Njoroge’s name,” said Katwa.

Ndegwa replied with another yes.

On calling all those who had been adversely mentioned to give their side of the story, the witness said it would be unfair for an investigator to carry out his work without giving them a chance to confirm or refute the allegations.

The witness also said he prepared his report from photocopies.

Ndegwa told court the DCI supplied him with photocopies of tender documents from which he prepared his report.

During the hearing, the witness said the photocopies included a newspaper which had no clear date.

Ndegwa testified that DCI officers told him they could get a clear one from Kenya Power but they did not give it by the time he was done with his report.

Ndegwa insisted he was not conducting an investigations.

“We agreed yesterday (Tuesday) there is no provision for scrutiny and assessment,” said Katwa.

“Yes,” the witness replied.

He said in the letters sent to him by the DCI, on July 6 and July 9, there was nowhere he was required to write a report.

But he said what he understood from the letters was he need to write a report which was to be handed to PPRA director general.

The court heard that the witness had asked for 17 documents on Kenya Power from DCI on August 10, a month into investigations. The documents had not been initially supplied.

He said the flow of documents from DCI was a problem.

“You requested for these documents after you realised they were not in the bundle that was supplied,” the lawyer said.

Ndegwa replied yes.

He said he would have delivered a report in one week if he had all documents.

Ndegwa said he was slowed down as some documents were allegedly being sourced from KP.

Out of the 17 documents, he said DCI only gave him four - minutes, delivery notes, appointment letters, minutes for inspections.

He said he had asked for contracts of all bidders. However, the DCI only gave him documents of one of the firms.

Ndegwa told court he took about two months to compile his report.

“At whose cost was this conducted?” he was asked.

“There was no cost,” Ndegwa replied.

He caused laughter when he said the snacks they were given during investigations were of poor quality.

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