Court releases 21 suspects in Sh1.1 billion NHIF graft case
By Japheth Ogila | December 10th 2018
High Court has freed ex-NHIF CEOs Geoffrey Mwangi and Simeon Kirgotty on Sh 2million cash bail each on the Sh 1.1 billion NHIF scandal. The court has also released 20 other suspects on cash bails ranging from Sh300,000 to Sh 1milion.
The charges were mainly based on irregular tendering processes, abuse of office and fraud against the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act.
The prosecution did not oppose the releasing of the suspects on bail. It, however, requested the court to consider releasing them on bail terms commensurate with their respective charges.
The prosecution also appealed to the court to compel the suspects to surrender their travel documents. But in their rejoinder, defense lawyers opposed this request on grounds that accused were not a flight not flight risk.
The prosecution argued that the accused should be allowed to access their offices and that they should not be granted cash bail; pleas which were rejected by the defense lawyer.
Lead defense lawyer Prof Tom Ojienda appealed to the court to grant Mwangi and Kirgotty Sh1m bond or Sh500,000 cash bail.
The defense team differed with the prosecution on the weight of the charges. The prosecution had termed cases as 'worse than murder' triggering backlash from defense team which accused it of attempting to incite the Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti.
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Investigations and recovery
The 21 accused NHIF officials are: CEO Geoffrey Mwangi, former CEO Simeon Kirgotty, Ruth Sidoi (Acting Corporate Secretary), Gilbert Gathuo (Senior Business ICT Director), Irene Rono (Assistant Manager Finance Reconciliation), Robert Murithi (Director Web Tribe), Mudzo Ndzili (NHIF board member and formerly Knut national chairman) and Yusuf Ibrahim (NHIF Board Member). Others are Elly Opot, Joseph Mbuvi, Pamela Marendi, Gibson Muhuhu, Jacinta Mwangi, Kennedy Wakhu, Fredrick Onyancha, Millicent Mwangi, Matilda, Darius Philip Mbogo, Danson Muchemi and his M/S Webtribe Limited.
The Asset Recovery Authority is reportedly seeking freeze the assets linked to the suspects as it fast tracks efforts to recover the Sh3billion lost in NHIF and Kenya Pipeline Company scandals.
On November 23, 2018, Mwangi and the head of Finance Wilbert Kurgat were arrested and questioned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
Charges of obstruction of justice on the investigation into loss of funds were preferred against them.
The prosecution accused Mwangi of instructing Kurgat not to co-operate with EACC during the investigation.
Mwangi was appointed as NHIF Acting Chief Executive in 2016. Over the past two years, the fund has been on an expansion spree.
Sources revealed to the Standard that the two had been summoned to DCI headquarters before investigators decided to detain them saying they had refused to release documents key in the investigation of possible graft at the insurer.
In April, NHIF was put to task by the Auditor General's office for escalating the cost of building a multi-level car park by 337 per cent has of the original cost.
The Auditor General Edward Ouko has reported that NHIF has never justified the increased cost from Sh909.7 million to Sh4 billion.
A month before the release of the auditor General's report, the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority launched separate investigations into the possible loss of Sh400 million in a questionable payout to two health insurers against an order by the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board.
Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati
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