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VAS

More sought over lost advertising cash

NAIROBI
By Vincent Achuka | October 28th 2018

 

Ayub Savula and Sammy Itemere

Detectives from the Flying Squad spent the whole of last night combing Nairobi in search of individuals approved for prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) over alleged loss of millions of shillings meant to pay media firms for government advertisements.

Among those being sought are Sammy Itemere, the former Principal Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication, who is accused of approving illegal payments amounting to Sh122 million to alleged briefcase companies.

Also being sought are Savula’s two wives, Hellen Kemboi and Melody Gatwiri.

The three own five companies which detectives say were fraudently paid or were in the process of being paid Sh122 million for services not rendered.

“We are going for them,” Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti said.

By the time of going to press, Dennis Chebitwey, the former director Government Advertising Agency (GAA), was being held at Muthaiga Police Station alongside Savula, who was arrested on Friday.

Siphoned money

The two are among 25 individuals and five companies that the state will charge in court beginning tomorrow over fraudulent payments at the government advertising agency and the National Treasury.

The government owes media companies Sh2.5 billion for services rendered but not paid for over the years.

“I am satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of fraudulent advertisement and payment of Sh122,335,500 to Savula, Melody Gatwiri and Hellen Kemboi, the Sunday Publishers Ltd, Melsav Company Ltd, Johnnewton Communications, the Express Media Group, No Burns Protection Ltd, Cross Continent Ventures Ltd and Sheldlock Ltd respectively,” said the DPP.

“I am further satisfied that Sammy Ishiundu Itemere approved fraudulent payments of Sh122,335,500 to the aforementioned names and companies,” he said.

The suspects will face charges of obtaining money by false pretences, making a document without authority and aiding the commission of a felony among others. Itemere, Chebitwey, Dickson Nyandiage, Henry Mungasia and Susan Akinyi will face an additional charge of abuse of office.

Lenient laws

For Savula, a former journalist-turned-politician, it is a case of his own words coming to bite him. In August, he called for a change in law to provide for the execution of persons accused of mega-corruption to end the vice. During the burial of former Minister Soita Shitanda, Savula raised a storm when he said provisions of the penal code are too lenient for suspects of grand corruption, arguing that strengthening the law would deter people.

“Someone who steals Sh1 billion is equivalent to a murderer. How many people would die in hospitals for lack of medicine as a result of the theft?” he said.

“There are many big thieves living in their homes while petty thieves rot in the jails,” he claimed. The GAA was created in 2015 to handle all government advertisements in electronic and print media despite a lot of protests by the Media Owners Association.

It publishes MyGov, a weekly insert distributed in the dailies. Although parastatals and departments remit money to the agency, it has not been paying the media houses their dues.

The GAA owes Standard Group Sh829.7 million, Nation Media Group Sh857 million and Star Publications Ltd Sh469.3 million.

It also owes Mediamax Network Sh586.3 million and Royal Media Services Sh75 million. In August, media houses complained to the DPP prompting him to launch investigations into the scam.  

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