Seven former officials of Bungoma County found guilty of inflating the cost of wheelbarrows were on Monday ordered to pay fines or serve jail sentences.
Kakamega Senior Principal Magistrate Thomas Muraguri delivered the sentence on behalf of the trial magistrate, Mr Bildad Ochieng’, who is reported to be unwell.
John Juma Matsanza, who was the accounting officer to the tender committee, was convicted on two counts. He was charged with failure to comply with the law on management and incurring expenditure illegally.
Matsanza was consequently fined Sh400,000 or serve a two-year jail sentence in default for each of the counts.
The other accused, Ayub Tuvuka China, Howard Lukadilu, Oscar Onyango Ojwang’, Arlington Shikuku Omusieni, Jacqueline Nanjala Namukati and Reuben Rutto were each convicted on two counts.
They were charged with wilful failure to comply with procedures and guidelines relating to procurement and tendering of contracts illegally. They were each fined Sh300,000 or serve one-and-a-half years in prison in default for each of the counts.
The court dismissed an application by lawyers for the accused to have them released on bail pending lodging of an appeal.
The magistrate said although the accused were first offenders without previous records of conviction, they had failed to take individual responsibility as accounting officers and tender committee members of the county government.
Consequently, the court noted that their actions had led to loss of public funds.
“Waste and plunder of public resources, which is rampant in the country, has created an avenue for public officers and suppliers to siphon public funds, thereby sowing public discontent,” said the magistrate while delivering the sentences.
“The court must, therefore, send a firm message that the culture of fraud and theft in the public sector does not pay.”
While declining the plea for bail application, the magistrate said the defence ought to have filed and served a formal application supported by an affidavit.
“This would have assisted the court to consider the application in its merit. As matters stand now, I feel the material placed before me by the defence is insufficient to enable me to make an informed decision in their favour,” ruled the magistrate.
The magistrate further said the defence must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court that the appeal had overwhelming chances of success.
“As matters stand, my hands are tied and I have no choice but to uphold the law. The application to release the accused on bail pending filing of an appeal is declined,” said the magistrate.