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Seven CSs and 11 governors among big fish in Haji’s net

By Everlyne Kwamboka | November 11th 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta receives the ODPP's performance reports from Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji in State House, Nairobi on Monday. [PSCU]

The Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) has registered cases worth Sh224 billion involving top government officials in the last three years.

The 53 cases on corruption allegations involve seven Cabinet Secretaries and Permanent Secretaries, 11 governors and senior county officials, 22 directors and chief executive 0fficers and seven MPs.

In its report based on three consolidated financial years handed to President Uhuru Kenyatta, DPP Noordin Haji said they have filed the cases, despite various challenges that require high level of expertise to prosecute.

It is the taxpayers’ money held in litigation that the prosecution office is legally battling to recover using a new strategy as it faces it off in court with a battery of lawyers hired by the prominent personalities.

The cases include former Treasury CS Henry Rotich’s Sh63 billion charges regarding the Kimwarer and Aror dams’ scandal, while his former Sports counterpart Hasan Wario is in court over the Sh55 million Rio Olympic scandal.

Governors whose cases are still pending in court include Mike Sonko (Nairobi), Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), Ali Korane (Garissa), Okoth Obado (Migori) and former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu.

Through plea bargaining, the DPP’s office recovered during the period grabbed land worth Sh2.7 billion. The land belongs to the University of Nairobi and Racecourse Primary School.

In adoption of a holistic approach in the fight against corruption, Haji who was appointed into office in March 2018, said he opted to use a three-pronged strategy to deal with cases.

“In this regard, and in our overall quest to enhance service delivery to Kenyans, the ODPP continues to be guided by a three-pronged strategic approach of Re-Casting, Re-Tooling, and Re-Learning,” he said.

The DPP said in his scorecard that his office has been working closely with internal and external stakeholders in the criminal justice sector in a bid to create synergies that have led to efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.

In the ODPP’s bid to handle complex crimes, the report lists adoption of digital disclosure of evidence in prosecution to ensure accused persons are served with documents in a timely and cost-effective manner.

The prosecution has also established a case management system that is envisaged to link the criminal justice chain anchors, reduce cases of lost files and standardise management of records.

The DPP said there is a need for prosecutors to be trained on new and emerging areas of crime as well as new methods employed by criminals.

“Most complex cases filed today entail voluminous materials of evidence. Further, these cases not only require a high level of expertise to prosecute but also demand input from disciplines other than law in order to prepare and prosecute effectively,” Haji said.

Other strategies put in place include establishment of a division to handle anti-corruption cases, strategic focus on high impact cases, establishment of recovery of assets corruptly acquired and use of experts such as financial, forensic and procurement analysts.

The report states that from January 2018 to June 2020, convictions accounted for 42 per cent of the cases concluded, acquittals (44.1 per cent) and withdrawals (13.9 per cent).

Haji said slow judicial processes and legislative gaps are challenges in prosecution of corruption and economic crimes.

With the interruption of court operations since March when Covid-19 pandemic struck, Haji said 26 cases were filed, out of which 20 have already been concluded.

The prosecution came up with guidelines on how to handle cases during the pandemic and, as a result, several matters that are not considered serious offences have been referred back to police stations for bonds.

The ODPP structure has also established nine regional offices for ease of coordination in handling cases. This also included the victim and witness facilitation unit whose main function is to ensure witnesses are informed and prepared for criminal trials.

With the introduction of plea bargaining as a way of reducing backlog of cases, the report shows a number of accused persons charged in 2019-2020 were convicted on plea bargain.

Plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between the accused and prosecutor, where the accused agrees to voluntarily plead guilty or consent to a concession from the prosecutor in exchange for a lesser charge or some of the counts being withdrawn for purposes of a lenient sentence.

The report shows 88 out of 1,003 murder cases filed during that period ended up being convicted on plea bargain, defilement (48 out of 2,313), rape (five of 388), gang rape (two out of120) and attempted defilement (one out of 345).

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