While Kenyans have almost become accustomed to news that their taxes lined the pockets of some individuals, 2018 was infamous owing to the copious amounts involved, but with twist after some action was taken to bring the perpetrators of the scandals to book.
The appointment of Mr George Kinoti as Director of Criminal Investigations and Mr Noordin Haji as Director of Public Prosecutions breathed a new lease of life in the war on graft, something that saw hundreds of public officials charged in court with the loss of billions between 2014 and 2018.
Among scandals that saw individuals charged, perhaps the second looting spree at the National Youth Service (NYS) takes the cake as it involved the theft of Sh8 billion in a notorious supplies payment hijack scheme now popularly referred to as 'supplying air.'
This came before justice had been served in an earlier looting scheme that was unearthed in 2015 when Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru was the Devolution and Planning CS and the NYS fell under the ministry before being moved to the Youth and Gender Affairs docket.
So far, 35 people have been charged in connection with the theft and all have denied the accusations.
The list of suspects initially had 51 individuals, but eight have since become prosecution witnesses with others being let off for lack of evidence.
The looting spree thrust a few little-known individuals into the limelight, as they were accused of getting billions meant for businessmen and women who actually supplied goods to the NYS.
The Ngirita family — matriarch Lucy, her daughters Ann and Phyllis, son Jeremiah and daughter-in-law Catherine Mwai — became perhaps the most known as they are believed to have jointly received nearly Sh1 billion from the NYS.
Mr James Thuita Nderitu and Ms Yvonne Wanjiku Ngugi, who own Firstling Supplies Ltd, are believed to have also received Sh1 billion through their firm.
The swoop on suspects saw former NYS director-general Richard Ndubai and ex-Youth and Gender Affairs PS Lillian Omollo charged alongside junior and senior public officials for the loss of taxpayers’ money.
Starting January, the court will hear the NYS cases which have been split into two to enable a speedy conclusion.
Mr Haji holds that the scam saw the charged individuals collude to forge contracts genuinely awarded to several firms, after which the fake documents were used to hurriedly pay ghost suppliers.
KCB has been fined Sh149.5 million, Standard Chartered Bank (Sh77.5 million), Equity Bank (Sh89.5 million), Cooperative Bank (Sh20 million), and DTB (Sh56 million).
Some of the firms flagged during investigations include Firstling Supplies (Sh1.48 billion), Flagstone Merchants (Sh1.03 billion), Fastlane Freight Forwarders (Sh221 million), Techbiz Ltd (Sh767 million, Excella Ltd (Sh282 million), Era Two Thousand Enterprises (Sh273.9 million), Interscope Tech and Services (Sh176 million), Smart Variety Stores (Sh153 million) and Ngiwaco Enterprises (Sh117 million).
Others are Njewanga Enterprises (Sh80 million), Evergreen Enterprises Ltd (Sh70.5 million), Evertec General Trading Company Ltd (Sh68.7 million), Bosqure Systems Limited (Sh59 million), Emaki Ventures (Sh39.3 million), and Ngirispa Enterprises (Sh18 million).
Between June and September, the DPP approved the prosecution of 30 individuals — among them officials of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) — in relation with the alleged import of poisonous sugar, rice and fertiliser which cost taxpayers well over Sh10 billion.
Detectives arrested 20 of the officials in Mombasa and the other 10 in Nairobi. The arrested officials include suspended Kebs managing director Charles Ongwae, KRA verification officers Vivian Moraa, Monica Wacheke, and Stephen Ochieng.
The sugar issue took a shocking turn after it emerged that some MPs received bribes of Sh10,000 to kill a report which pointed at the major players in the importation of the dangerous sweetener.
Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni Wamuchomba in August claimed that some lawmakers insulted her in Parliament for turning down her cut of the bribes, some of which were allegedly dished out in toilets within the National Assembly’s premises.
MPs Ayub Savula (Lugari), Justus Murungu (Matungu) and Jared Okello (Nyando) have since called for the dissolution of Parliament following the bribery allegations.
Interestingly, Mr Savula himself landed in trouble barely a month after spitting fire on a section of his colleagues when he was charged alongside his two wives with the disappearance of Sh2.5 billion from the Government Advertising Agency.
Mr Savula, Ms Melody Gatwiri Ringera and Ms Hellen Jepkorir Kemboi were on October 29 released on a Sh500,000 cash bail each, after denying claims that they jointly stole Sh122.3 million that was meant to be paid to media houses for a number of advertisements.
They are accused of using seven companies — Sunday Publishers Ltd, Melsav Company Ltd, Johnnewton Communications, Express Media Group, No Burns Protection Agencies Ltd, Cross Continents Ventures Ltd, and Shiledlock Ltd — to defraud the GAA of millions.
Former Broadcasting and Telecommunication PS Sammy Itemere and Mr Dennis Chebitwey were among 13 other individuals charged alongside the Savula households.
Mr Itemeere, Mr Kuko and the others were released on Sh1 million cash bail.
In yet another scandal that rocked the country, former Kenya Power bosses Ken Tarus and Ben Chumo were among 18 individuals at the electricity distributor charged with procurement of defective transformers and irregularities in pre-qualifying 525 companies for labour and transport contracts.
Others charged are corporate affairs and company secretary Beatrice Meso, general manager regional co-ordination Peter Mwichigi, former general manager supply chain John Ombui, his business strategy counterpart Peter Mungai Kinuthia, general managers Joshua Mutua, Samuel Ndirangu, Abubakar Swaleh, Stanely Mutwiri and Benson Muriithi.
The Kenya Power officials have been accused of misappropriating Sh400 million through the faulty transformers deal with Muwa Trading Company.
Labour and transport project engineer John Mwaura, chief accountant James Muriuki and tender committee members Bernard Githui and Ms Evelyn Amondi were also accused of colluding to pay unqualified transport firms Sh159 million.
Muwa Trading Company directors James Njenga Mungai, his wife Grace Wanjira and son, John Anthony Mungai, were also charged with fraudulently obtaining Sh201 million from Kenya Power by supplying faulty transformers.
On August 30, Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe was arrested alongside National Cereals and Produce Board finance general manager Cornel Kiprotich over Sh11 billion irregularly paid out to individuals posing as farmers, at the expense of genuine maize growers.
Other NCPB officials netted in the crackdown were managing director Newton Terer, accounts clerk Caroline Kipchoge Cherono, Eldoret silo manager Renson Kibet Korir, records officer-Eldoret depot Eric Kipketer Talum and county director for agriculture Joseph Kipruto Cheboi.
About 13 traders allegedly colluded with top NCPB managers in a scheme that saw them receive billions irregularly in the 2017-2018 season.
Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri last month said that his office expects the arraignment of 62 individuals for the NCPB scam, over which President Kenyatta publicly expressed his anger.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigated 152 traders, and found that 90 were genuinely paid for their services.
The war on graft moved to the health sector in November, with suspended National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) CEO Geoffrey Mwangi and his predecessor Samuel ole Kirgotty charged with the loss of Sh1.88 billion alongside 18 other individuals and a company.
The duo were charged alongside procurement officers and other NHIF officials that approved the hiring of payment service provider JamboPay and later purchase of a system from the same firm for a combined Sh1.88 billion.
Mr Haji insists that the management tender committee members that awarded JamboPay the deal and the evaluation committee colluded to play a bait-and-switch game that saw NHIF hire the system rather than buy it.
After expiry of JamboPay’s three-year contract in 2017, NHIF extended the contract by one year which saw the firm collect over Sh250 million in one year.
NHIF eventually bought the system for Sh495 million through a single-sourcing process that the DPP insists was also illegal.
The NHIF scam suspects were released on cash bails ranging between Sh300,000 and Sh1 million.
Mr Mwangi and NHIF finance director Wilbert Kurgat had two weeks earlier been charged with obstruction of justice after the DPP claimed that they colluded to hide crucial payment vouchers from detectives. In that case, the duo was released on Sh500,000 cash bail.
Mr Mwangi and Mr Kurgat were also suspended by the NHIF.
The NHIF cases resume in January.
Amid several accusations of grand corruption, Kenya Pipeline Company also saw five of its senior officials being arrested.
Managing director Joe Sang, company secretary Gloria Khafafa, Mr Vincent Korir Cheruiyot, Mr Billy Aseka and Mr Nicholas Gitobu were charged with the loss of public funds in the procurement of a Sh1.9 billion oil jetty in Kisumu.
They were released on bond and the case will be mentioned on January 22.
With DPP Haji and DCI Kinoti vowing to bring graft barons to book, 2019 will be a busy year for the courts.
Chief Justice David Maraga is expected to hire more magistrates to deal with the increasing graft cases before courts.