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Shock as name of dead MCA pops up in Jinja travel probe

Friday August 9 2019

Siaya County Assembly

Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga (seated left) listens as Speaker George Okode addresses the county assembly. The EACC has summoned 41 Siaya MCAs over a controversial trip to Uganda. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DICKENS WASONGA
By DICKENS WASONGA
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Investigations by the anti-graft agency into a controversial trip by Siaya MCAs to Uganda took a shocking twist after it emerged that a dead member was listed among those who travelled to Jinja, Uganda, in February.

It had been alleged that 41 members of the County Assembly stage-managed the trip.

They are accused of having their passports stamped at the border and then returning home without attending a workshop in Uganda, a matter now under investigation.

THE MCA

But the inclusion of Mr Joanes Andiego Odongo's in the list of those who are said to have been on the trip has come as a shock.

Odongo was the Central Sakwa MCA at the time of his death and had also served as the Majority Whip at the Assembly.

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He died on May 17, 2018 after a long battle with liver and kidney complications.

He was later succeeded by his son Charlton Andiego in the subsequent by-election.

PAYMENT

The county assembly has now rushed to defend itself alleging a mix-up in the names.

However, a payment schedule the county assembly provided to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigators shows that the late MCA made the trip and was paid all the allowances.

According to the document dated January 21, 2019 and signed by the assembly clerk, a total of 43 MCAs had been proposed to attend a benchmarking-cum-training at the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) in Jinja, from February 1 to 15.

During the stay, each one was to pocket Sh136,144 and a further transport allowance of Sh10,000 except the Speaker, who in the document is indicated was to receive Sh184,346.

COUNTY'S DEFENCE

On Thursday, EACC spokesman Yasin Amaro told the Nation that it was shocking that corruption had moved a notch higher from those listed as ghost workers to dead travellers.

"Apart from our own sources of information, EACC relies on documents that are relevant to the subject of investigations and such documents are sourced from individuals or organisations under investigation, " he said.

But County Assembly Speaker George Okode, when contacted, claimed that that the list had errors and accused the EACC of engaging in sideshows.

“EACC is engaging in unnecessary drama. Do they have evidence that the dead MCA’s name was used to get money? Do they have evidence that he was captured as having travelled?

"Why are they not focusing their attention on who was actually paid because the issue here is about a trip that never was,” the Speaker argued.

“I have all the recordings, including pictures of the facilitators who took the MCAs through the four-day training and anybody who needs to verify the same can access the evidence,” he added.

"In fact we are happy with the turn the investigation is taking. We are buoyed by the new development " he added.

EVIDENCE

Mr Okode told the Nation on phone on Thursday that as a requirement for controls on foreign trips, MCAs were expected to get clearance from the Ministry of Devolution and while doing so, the secretariat that was organising the trip could have generated the erroneous list by mistake.

“When I asked the clerk, who keeps the records he told me that the list had been generated and sent to the ministry for clearance and it was only realised later that it had some errors “ said Mr Okode.

SPEAKER'S ACCOUNT

The Speaker further said that the list, which is among several other documents that the EACC has obtained for the probe, originated from the county assembly.

"If he passed on, how did his name appear in the list of those proposed to travel by the assembly? This list was prepared by the assembly and was sent to the Devolution ministry for approval. Between the EACC investigators and the assembly, who was best-placed to know the MCA was dead or alive?” he posed.

Mr Okode said the assembly organised three trips to Uganda. He attended the first one alongside nine other MCAs and the second trip which was to be attended by 30 members flopped due to lack of proper coordination.

"During the second trip, the MCAs went to Uganda but they were forced to come back immediately because the team in Uganda couldn't receive them due to planning hitches, " he claimed.

After the second trip failed, Mr Okode said, they planned a third one, which he was part of, and even opened the four-day engagement but came back the following day because he was not paid.

The others who remained behind were also not paid because they used the money they ought to have used in the second trip that failed, he said.

Mr Okode added that four people, among them two members of the assembly's Public Service Board who had been paid but did not attend the trip, were surcharged.

SUMMONSES

The EACC has summoned 41 Siaya MCAs to shed light on the controversial trip.

The ward reps are expected to appear before the detectives in Kisumu from Monday next week to be questioned and to record statements.

According a letter from the agency dated July 31 and addressed to the assembly clerk, the MCAs were asked to bring the original travel documents (passports) they used during the trip.

While confirming the matter, Mr Amaro told the Nation that the lawmakers are expected to provide information that will enable the anti-graft agency to establish whether the said trip took place as claimed.