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Anti-Corruption Commission grill Davis Chirchir and Paul Wasanga on chicken scam

By Fred Makana | February 21st 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

NAIROBI: Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir and former Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) boss Paul Wasanga were grilled by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives over the scandal involving bribes to award printing tenders to UK firm Smith and Ouzman.

Mr Chirchir and Mr Wasanga spent close to seven hours at Integrity Centre in Nairobi as anti-graft detectives on the second day of investigations, tried to piece together evidence likely to be used by Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko to prosecute those found culpable of receiving bribes.

The former Knec boss was the first to arrive at Integrity Centre as early as 8am while Chirchir followed shortly before 9am.

On Thursday last week, the architects of the scandal, Nicholas Charles Smith was jailed for three years by the Southwark Crown Court while his father, Christopher John Smith was sentenced to 18-month suspended term for his role in the scandal in which top election commission and Knec officials allegedly pocketed Sh50 million as bribes.

The anti-graft agency is investigating officials over bribery allegations christened 'chickens', estimated at Sh50 million and given between October 1,2008 and December 31, 2010.

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Before his appointment as Energy CS, Chirchir worked as a commissioner in the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), which the UK court heard gave out tenders for materials for by-elections in Shinyalu and Bomachoge constituencies in 2009. He is alleged to have played a central role in the controversial tendering process.

On the other hand, Wasanga is also accused of receiving bribes from the same firm to award examinations printing tender. EACC claims he received Sh710,000 a year and the payments were allegedly made directly to him once during a trip to Oxford, UK and also through a fixer to facilitate the deals.

Immediately the CS emerged from Friday’s meeting shortly after 2pm he told the Press that he learnt about the alleged scandal through the media and asked anybody with evidence linking him to the scandal to present it to EACC.

"I was invited by EACC to clarify on what has been a topical issue in the media regarding the so called 'chicken' scandal. I have made clarifications on all questions that I was asked and I encourage all those with evidence to forward the same to the commission," Chirchir said.

Asked if he will step down in case the commission finds evidence linking him to the scandal, he said he was ready to prove his innocence. "We shall cross the bridge when we get there. At the moment let us give EACC detectives time to carry out investigations on the matter and present its finding to the DPP for further action instead of speculations," he said Chirchir added that those found culpable should be prosecuted.

"Despite the evidence in London that led to the conviction of the two directors, it is possible that in the process of name dropping one could be mentioned. I am also looking forward to a credible investigation so as to prove my innocence in the alleged scandal," the CS said.

He maintained that during his tenure at IIEC he never met Christopher John Smith and Nicholas Charles Smith the two directors of Smith and Ouzman.

"I urge those with evidence on whether Chirchir collected chicken from the said company not to hesitate to provide evidence to EACC," he said

The CS said the scandal was being probed in four African countries and soon the truth will be known.

On his part the former Knec boss told the Press that he was summoned by EACC to shed light on allegations that in 2010 he received over Sh 650,000 as bribe to influence the awarding of tender to Smith & Ouzman for the printing of certificates.

Wasanga who left EACC offices at 1.45 pm distanced himself from engaging in any corrupt deals with the two directors who were jailed, since he took over at the the examination council in 2005.

He said he had been invited by EACC to clarify on what he knew about the dealings involving the UK firm that is at the center of the bribery claims. Wasanga also said he learnt about the alleged scandal through the media.

Asked why Smith & Ouzman had been awarded tenders for eight straight years, he said Knec has been working with the company sice early 1980's.

"By the time I took over the company had worked with council for a very long time. The tender was also not exclusive to the company since it had been working with nine other firms in providing the examination materials and certificates," Wasanga said.

He said the London-based company won the contract to print both certificates and examination material through a competitive process that was above board.

Wasanga and Chirchir are among five people who have been summoned for questioning over the scandal that led to the jailing of Smith and his son. Former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission CEO James Oswago and Trevy Oyombra the man alleged to have received the bribes on behalf of IIEC and Knec officials will also be grilled by EACC.

Smith and Ouzman. chickengate
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