Before October 2018 when the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission came up with corruption allegations at the Migori County, not much was known about Jared Peter Odoyo Oluoch Kwaga.
The man could pass off as any other businessman, but beneath the secret life was a man EACC claims was the mastermind of the alleged theft at the county government which landed governor Okoth Obado in trouble.
When he was charged last week with five members of his family, all focus was on Obado and his four children. Everybody forgot about the man behind the establishment of several companies the anti-graft commission claims were used as conduits of embezzled public funds.
Kwaga faced the charges with his wife Christine Akinyi Ochola, mother Penina Auma, brothers Joram Opala Otieno and Patroba Ochanda Otieno and sister-in-law Carolyne Anyango Ochola.
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Also not spared were their companies Misoft Ltd, Tarchdog Printers Ltd, Kajulu Business Ltd, Victorious Investments Ltd and Deltrack ICT Services Ltd which the prosecution claimed were the conduits used to siphon more than Sh300 million from the County Government of Migori.
“Their bank accounts were dormant until November 2016 with nil balances, which is a characteristic of a briefcase company. But in a span of three years, the newly registered companies transacted a total of Sh1,971,179,180 from Migori County, which amount is unexplained,” claims EACC.
Seeing Kwaga in the dock could hoodwink anyone he is a subdued man, but the depth of his pockets was soon felt when he and his family forked out Sh26.7 million cash bail they had been granted by the court within a record two hours.
He faced the severest of the charges from his family; being implicated in 10 out of the 28 counts and got the highest cash bail of Sh8.2 million.
Interestingly, Information Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru on February 8, 2019, honoured Kwaga by appointing him to the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) board for a three-year term ending on February 7, 2022.
He got the appointment courtesy of his Pasha Centre in Migori, which is part of a digital village project by the ICT Authority aimed at providing internet access to entrepreneurs seeking training and communication in rural areas.
Kwaga’s Pasha Centre is among over 40 others spread across the country which are privately owned and managed but get support from the ICT Authority.
According to documents filed in court by EACC, Kwaga and his family members allegedly received close to Sh2 billion from Obado’s county government, with a portion of the loot finding its way back to the governor’s account as kickbacks.
EACC blames Kwaga as the mastermind of the scandal, being the director of all the 16 companies that allegedly received a total of Sh1,978,592,467 from the County Government of Migori for services not rendered and goods not delivered.
“We established that Kwaga and his family worked in collusion with county government officials holding positions of influence to embezzle public funds through fictitious procurement contracts and accumulated illicit wealth at the expense of the public,” said EACC.
In one of the instance, EACC said the county government paid over Sh800 million to Kwaga’s seven non-existent companies given that they were registered and became operational almost two years after the money had been credited to their accounts.
Kwaga is alleged to have incorporated his wife, mother, brothers and sister-in-law is the 16 companies identified as Macropharm Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Soul Media Services Ltd, Misoft Ltd, Dankey Press Ltd, Atinus Services Ltd, and Deltrack ICT Services Ltd.
Others are Tarchdog Printers Ltd, Mactebac Contractors Ltd, Seletrack Consultants Ltd, Joyush Business Ltd, Kajulu Business Ltd, Pesulus Suppliers Ltd, Victorious Investments and Duotech Technology.
According to EACC, Kwaga’s Misoft Ltd was paid Sh461 million for branding of Obado’s offices and supply of an integrated health services while Seletrack Consultants Ltd got Sh158 million for assessment of ICT applications in public health hospitals.
According to EACC, eight of the companies received close to Sh1 billion in their accounts when there is no records of them rendering any service to the county government.
But Kwaga and his family have defended their businesses with the county government stating that their multi-million shillings properties spread across Nairobi, Kisumu and Migori were legally acquired.
According to the businessman, the suit by EACC seeking to have them forfeit their properties to the State was an abuse of the court process meant to stop them from enjoying the fruits of their hard work.