DPP goes after Mandago's assets over Sh1.1b scholarship scandal

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago in the dock at Nakuru Law Courts. He and two others were arraigned in court over the Finland education programme scandal. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Director of Public Prosecutions intends to go after the assets of Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago and two others in relation to the Sh1.1 billion Finland education programme scandal.

On Thursday, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Hassan Abdi informed a Nakuru court that the ODPP will make an application for the assets of Mandago, Meshack Rono and Joshua Lelei to be frozen.

Rono is Deputy Director of the County Education Revolving Fund and Trustee while Lelei is a county official. Mr Abdi said the ODPP intend to freeze the assets for the purposes of forfeiture and seizure to facilitate intended compensation for over 180 victims of the scandal.

“We shall be making an application for preservation of their assets for purposes of victim’s compensation, the ODPP will make a formal application for the court to freeze the accounts of the three accused persons,” Abdi told Senior Principal Magistrate Peter Ndege.

He said this was necessary in case they are ordered by the court or government to compensate the victims.

The application was made yesterday when Mandago and his co-accused denied 10 charges of conspiracy to steal, abuse of office and forgery in the Finland education programme saga.

The three were to take a plea alongside Joseph Maritim, former Chief Officer of Youth and Sports, but he is out of the country and the court had earlier declined to proceed with the trial unless all accused persons were present.

Lawyer Zephania Yego appeared in court on behalf of Maritim and said he travelled to Canada on June 13 on a visitor’s Visa.

Yego said Maritim has not been summoned by DCI to record any statement and was not informed of any investigation against him.

“He has not been notified he is required in court and only learned of his indictment on social media and instructed me to appear,” said the lawyer.

He added that he has advised the suspect to come back to Kenya and face his accusers and answer to charges leveled against him.

The lawyer earlier wanted the court to defer plea taking for his client to a date he will be available.

However, the prosecution successfully amended the charge sheet and withdrew Maritim’s name to allow Mandago and the two officials to take plea.

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago (centre) at Nakuru Police Station. He faces charges over flopped airlift plan that fleeced parents. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

According to the charge sheet, the senator and the two officials conspired to steal the Sh1.1 billion from KCB in Eldoret between March 1, 2021 and September 12, 2022.

The charge sheet shows the fund in the account was registered under the Uasin Gishu Education overseas university fees for students under the county education programme.

Mandago also faces three charges of abuse of office, when he was governor. He allegedly entered into an MoU with various universities in Finland and Canada on behalf of his government, without approval from the county assembly.

Within the same one year, Mandago allegedly arbitrarily misrepresented that the county he was heading was offering full scholarships to students to study in Finland and Canada.

“In March 2021, Mandago arbitrarily seconded a county staff to the education trust, thereby drawing a salary from the county, causing prejudice to residents,” read another charge.

Rono and Lelei are accused of stealing Sh56.5 million from KCB Eldoret branch between June 2021 and September 12, 2022.

“The accused, jointly with others, stole Sh56, 512,300 from the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust account,” read the charge sheet.

Rono is charged with stealing Sh26.56 million from an overseas account on between June 15, 2021, and September 5, 2022.

Lelei is said to have stolen Sh4.8 million between August 12, 2021 and September 12, 2022 from the KCB account.

The two also face abuse of office charges for falsely misrepresenting to KCB that the overseas education trust account was being opened for the county government on May 21, 2021.

Furthermore, the two are said to have forged a declaration of trust on May 6, 2021, at an unknown place, in respect to the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust, with intent to defraud.

Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago at Nakuru Police Station. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

“The two accused persons forged minutes of Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust purporting it to be a genuine document in 2021 at unknown places,” read the 10th count.

Lawyers Stephen Kibungei and Boniface Oduor applied for the senator and his co-accused persons to be released on bail.

Oduor said the three were public officers and were willing to attend court, adding that there were no incentive for them to flee from the court’s jurisdiction. 

Mr Abdi did not object to their release on bail but urged the court to consider the seriousness and magnitude of the charges.

He applied for the court to bar the three from contacting or interfering with the 180 witnesses lined up. “The court should order the accused persons to physically attend court during mentions and hearing for the purposes of expediting the case,” said Abdi.

Mr Ndege, noting that they were public officers, released Mandago and his co-accused on a bond of Sh2 million with a surety of a similar amount. They will alternatively pay a cash bail of Sh500,000.

He, however, cautioned them that if they fail to attend court, their bond terms will be cancelled. “The court should not hear any complaint from the victims and witnesses that they have been interfered with or contacted by the accused persons,” he ruled.

He ordered the prosecution to supply the defence team with all documentary evidence, witness statements and charge sheet. The case will be mentioned on October 2.