Counties promised hope, but some look set on delivering fraud

In Kenya, the anti-corruption watchdog says it is working to root out graft in counties, the devolved units that once promised hope only for some to deliver fraud. For businesses, both large and small, the experience across the country is worse as executives are now forced to factor corruption into their daily expenses and budgets.

Early this month, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission revealed that it is investigating close to 70 high-profile cases related to graft-ridden deals on procurement of goods touching on at least four devolved units.

Twalib Mbarak, the Chief Executive of EACC noted that Marsabit County is leading in a dirty list with 90 cases related to graft. Sunbaked Marsabit is closely followed by its Southwest neighbour Samburu with 87 cases touching on graft. Also on this awful list is Wajir County with 32 graft-related cases and Mandera with nearly two dozen cases.

Kenya’s future frightening

But with the latest revelations by the Head of Public Service Felix Koskei on the runaway state of corruption in government circles, the future of both individuals and businesses looks very frightening.

Speaking in Mombasa during the first-ever consultative meeting between six audit committees of the National Assembly and the Executive Office of the President, Mr Koskei painted a picture of a worsening state in the loss of public funds. A rising level of corruption is taking a toll on the economy already strained by rising fuel costs and inflation. The Head of Public Service said most government projects have stalled largely due to corruption.

“The country is grappling with theft of public resources at an industrial scale. Corruption has permeated all aspects of the society to the extent that it is normalised,” said Mr Koskei. He added: “Citizens, businesses, and public entities factor it into their daily expenses and budgets. This has pushed the cost of doing business in the county through the roof.”

The fight against corruption in the counties has been slow but the latest reports show a number of current and former county governors have a case to answer for alleged graft cases.

On Thursday, a court established that former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu aka Baba Yao has a case to answer over a Kes588 million tender. Baba Yao and his wife Susan Wangari Ndung’u have a case to answer in relation to a fraudulent tender to Testimony Enterprises.

Also in the soup with the Waititus and Charles Chege, the Director of Testimony Enterprises, the company at the centre of the scandal, and his wife Beth Wangeci.

Read also: Is the rise in banking fraud correlated to job cuts?

Waititu’s Sh1.9 billion assets frozen

Mr Waititu was arrested in July 2019 after the DPP okayed their prosecution with five (5) offences; money laundering, abuse of office, fraudulent procurement practice, conflict of interest, dealing with suspect property, and willful failure to breach procurement laws and regulations. According to the EACC, the accused will defend themselves in court from 18th-21st March next year.

The High Court has since issued orders freezing Waititu’s unexplained assets valued at roughly Kes1.9 billion.

Still, on counties, the anti-corruption court established that former Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal has a case to answer in a graft case involving Kes84.7 million. According to investigations, Mr Lenolkulal traded with the Samburu County Government in the name of Oryx Service Station, which he owns.

The probe found that Lenolkulal supplied the county with fuel valued at over Kes 84 million. As a consequence, he was charged with fraudulent acquisition of public property, abuse of office, and conflict of interest in the conduct of county affairs.

Other former and sitting Governors with active graft cases are Daniel Waithaka (Nyandarua), Okoth Obado (Migori), Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Mike Mbuvi Sonko (Nairobi), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia),  Mwangi Wa Iria (Murang’a) and Onesmus Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi).

In March, the Anti-Corruption Court in Nyandarua ruled that former governor Daniel Waithaka and five county officials have a case to answer. They are sued in connection with a Kes50 million graft case filed in 2018.

The five Nyandarua County officials include; John Ngigi Daniel, Jesse Wachira Mwangi, Simo Irungu, Grace Wanjiru Gitonga, and Martin Igecha Kamami.

In Nyandarua, graft suspects are out of trace

In the Nyandarua case, two Israeli contractors; Chen Yochanan Ofer and Albert Attias, directors at Tahal Consulting Engineers Limited were implicated in the case only for the charges against them to get dropped as investigators were neither able to trace nor could they prove their existence.

In July 2022, the EACC got the green light to freeze assets worth Kes73 million belonging to former Migori Governor Okoth Obado. The freeze order for a house in Loresho, Nairobi, and three fuel guzzlers, followed claims that the vast wealth was mobilised using funds embezzled from Migori County.

Mr Obado and his four children—Dan Achola, Evelyne Adhiambo, Scarlet Okoth, and Jerry Okoth—were barred from disposing of their assets even by way of agents or proxies.

Serving Tharaka Nithi Governor Onesmus Muthomi Njuki is also in the crosshairs of EACC over the irregular award of a Kes34 million tender to Westomaxx Investments Limited, an entity that allegedly submitted fraudulent documents and won a deal.

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