Traffic officers fail to explain source of huge M-Pesa deals to vetting team

Tuesday August 23 2016

Chief Inspector Polycarp Ochieng of Eldoret appears before the National Police Service Commission vetting panel in Nakuru on August 23, 2016. He was at pains to explain M-Pesa transactions and his source of wealth. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Chief Inspector Polycarp Ochieng of Eldoret appears before the National Police Service Commission vetting panel in Nakuru on August 23, 2016. He was at pains to explain M-Pesa transactions and his source of wealth. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ERIC MATARA
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By MAGDALENE WANJA
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Traffic police officers in the Rift Valley region were on Tuesday hard-pressed to explain their source of wealth including huge amounts of money in their bank and M-Pesa accounts as the vetting by the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) kicked off in Nakuru.

The shocking rot in the Traffic Police department reared its ugly head on the first day of the vetting being conducted by a panel chaired by NPSC chairman Mr Johnstone Kavuludi.

A shocked panel put various officers to task over huge M-Pesa transactions running into millions of shillings, which they could not explain.

Most of the officers interviewed could not explain irregularities in M-Pesa transactions, academic qualifications, facilitation fees and misuse of government vehicles at the probe conducted at a Nakuru hotel.

The first officers who were vetted included chief inspectors Kennedy Rucho, Polycap Ochieng and Peter Katheka, all driving test examiners, initially based in Eldoret.

They were hard pressed to account for huge sums moved in and out their M-Pesa accounts.

“The M-Pesa records with the panel reveal shocking transactions an officer depending on his salary cannot raise. They are questionable and we doubt them,” said Commissioner Ronald Musengi.

“You could be having several personal assistants for this kind of work to be carried out. I am afraid that is what we have observed,” Mr Musengi told Ochieng during his vetting.

Mr Ochieng was for instance asked to explain why he received Sh384, 000 from his colleague Mr Rucho, but said the money was part of proceeds from a joint maize business and cyber café that they run with four other officers in Eldoret town.

He seemed to contradict his colleague Mr Rucho who had earlier appeared before the panel and said that the transactions were as a result of a joint business of selling guinea fowls.

Mr Musengi laughed off the excuse wondering how the 25 birds Mr Rucho claimed they owned could result to the fictitious transactions they were involved in.

“We operate a business of selling guinea fowls and God is my witness,” Mr Rucho had told the panel.

According to the wealth declaration forms most of the officers submitted in 2015, it emerged that a number of officers especially those from the driving test department ran a cartel that involved unexplained huge transactions of cash running to millions of shillings.

TILL NUMBER DEPOSITS

Eldoret based Chief Inspector John Wainaina Laban found himself on the spot when the panellist demanded he accounts for account for his huge bank and mobile cash transactions.

His records indicated that apart from the M-Pesa transactions, he was also getting funds from a till number that was depositing money into his account.

However, he could not explain the source of the frequent deposits.

Mr Wainaina who has served in the region for the past five years claimed that he was engaged in a number of businesses including farming, real estate and a maize business.

He said he runs his maize business with friends within Eldoret but he found himself in trouble when he could not name the location of the maize stores.

He claimed he has never bothered to find out where the maize is stored since they had a broker who does all the transactions for them.

“Maybe my colleagues found out where the store is but I didn’t. I only talk to the broker when he is delivering the money,” he said.

Mr Wainaina claimed that they don’t keep any records on the business and that they operate on the basis of trust.

“We don’t have anything to show that we are together in the business because we trust each other,” he said.

Kitale Traffic Base Commandant George Kibet was on the spot for the M-Pesa transactions recorded on his mobile line.

He claimed the post has no access to receipts and that the money was paid by people who paid for police escort while in the area through M-Pesa.

The chief inspector told the panel that his station gave out between five and seven officers for every escort.

According to the report, 17 transactions totalling to Sh13, 000 were made.

One of the panellists, Commissioner Mary Owuor, asked how the money was shared among the seven officers who offered escort services.

However, all the officers interviewed stunned the panel when they said some of the transactions were part of welfare money that they were forced to raise whenever an officer had a problem.

At one point, Mr Ochieng also caused laughter when he claimed that his wife refused to give him her bank statements that were required by the panel.

He was, however, ordered to go and try to convince his wife to give him the documents before appearing before the Commission again.

Chief Inspector Patrick Githinji, the officer in charge of the driving test department in Gilgil, was at one point also put to task to explain how he acquired six plots worth millions at various places including Thika, Kitengela, Ruiru and Juja towns.

He told the panel that the got the money from Police Sacco loans, savings and relatives’ contributions.

The panel also doubted Mr Githinji’s A-Level Certificate and when they asked for his O-Level Certificate, he told them he didn’t know he was supposed to bring it.

“I only carried the highest certificate l attained and that was this A-Level one. I had two subsidiaries and one principal,” he told the panel.

Commissioners Musengi and Murshid Mohamed and Rift Valley Regional Police Commander Solomon Makau put Chief Inspector Peter Katheka to task for using a police Land Cruiser in his maize business.

This was after it emerged that he at one time use a police vehicle to conduct his business.