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EACC now confident of winning war against corruption

Sunday May 28 2017
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Elgeyo-Marakwet residents mark the International Anti-Corruption Day at Iten on December 9, 2016. EACC is working with other institutions involved in the scrutiny of aspirants before the General Election. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN NGIRACHU
By MAUREEN KAKAH

Education ministry staff who misused free education funds are among the high-profile corruption convicts over the past 17 months, according to an analysis of the convictions.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is now happy with the progress of the cases so far, with the establishment of a special division of the High Court to deal with economic crimes cited as having a great impact.

However, the agency has said that the judiciary has been a disappointment by failing to prosecute suspects, especially key ones, whom they investigate and are taken to court to answer for the crimes.

JUDICIARY BLAMED

The Eliud Wabukala-chaired agency has pointed out instances where they have conducted investigations and made solid cases, only for the individuals to be set free.

Last year, EACC chief executive Halakhe Wako described the Judiciary as the weak link in the fight against graft.

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"The Judiciary is the weak link. If we prosecute 10 people today, and we prosecuted 10 others yesterday, the public gets to ask where the convictions are," he said.

A number of individuals with political ambitions, including governors and heads of parastatals, face prosecution for various allegations ranging from graft, questionable academic backgrounds, breach of peace, hate speech and incitement to violence, among others.

OPARANYA ON THE DOCK
Some have moved to court and managed to bar investigating agencies from having them arrested and charged.

For example, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya last August, for the second time, obtained orders from the High Court barring the Senate’s County Public Accounts and Investments Committee from having him arrested.

He was accused of failing to appear before the committee to answer audit queries on Sh7.4 billion spent in the 2013/2014 financial year.

But he argued that his prosecution would be a malicious act.

JIRONGO FRAUD CASE
Former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo, in February 2016, stopped his prosecution through a High Court order just when he was to appear before a Magistrate court to be charged.

He is accused of giving false information linking Mr Jonathan Moi to a Sh50 million land fraud dispute.

Also, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero moved to court to stop the anti-corruption agency from investigating bank accounts belonging to him and his wife.

They are suspected to have transferred millions of public funds into their personal accounts.

To pare down the legitimacy of the probe, they accused EACC of obtaining warrants without disclosing some material facts.

CONVICTIONS

Nonetheless, the commission boasts of a conviction rate of 75 per cent of the cases they have investigated and taken to court.

"If you look at the convictions rate, we are at 75 per cent. The fight is on the right track.

"It has never been as intense as it is now. We are working hard to support the prosecution with all matters in court to see more high profile cases dealt with," Mr Michael Mubea, EACC’s deputy chief executive, said.

"We are now working well with the Judiciary, especially with the establishment of the anti-corruption division, which has greatly fast-tracked hearing of corruption and economic crimes related matters," he added.

ROLE OF VOTERS

The agency is also working with other institutions involved in the scrutiny of aspirants before the General Election in August, and is understood to be ready to present its report to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in the course of this week.

Despite the good vibes, Mr Mubea said there is a new cause for concern over tainted candidates.

"Our disappointment is that, notwithstanding that some people are facing cases in court, the electorate will disregard that and vote them in, and that becomes a big challenge.

"It poses a big challenge on governance. We charge people, the electorate vote for them. What message are we sending?" he posed.

CULPRITS

Some of those nominated to vie in the coming elections and have pending court cases are Hassan Noor Hassan and Gladys Boss Shollei, who are both facing corruption-related charges and are out on bond.

Ms Shollei was charged with abuse of office and failure to comply with procurement laws when she was the Registrar of the Judiciary, but still managed to be nominated as Jubilee Party's candidate for the Uasin Gishu Woman Representative position.

On the other hand, Mr Hassan was also charged with abuse of office over and conspiracy to commit an economic crime when he was the Devolution ministry tender committee chairman.

He is vying for the Mandera governorship post on the Economic Freedom Party ticket.

FUNDS EMBEZZLEMENT

There have been concerns that cases involving prominent personalities, such as governors, take an inordinate amount of time to determine.

But this might be addressed by the creation of the special division.

Those convicted for corruption-related offences are a director and an assistant director at the Education ministry, an assistant commissioner, a chief and a retinue of policemen.

Perhaps one of the most significant conviction is that of Ms Concilia Ondiek, who was the acting director of secondary and tertiary education.

She and assistant director Patrick Lumumba Aghan denied embezzling Sh3 million and Sh2.5 million, respectively, of money meant for free learning.

JAIL SENTENCE

Last September, Ms Ondiek and her colleague Dorothy Ndia were jailed for two years on charges of fraudulent acquisition of public property.

Significantly, the two years’ sentence does not have the option of a fine.

A month later, Ms Jane Muthoni Ngugi, an accountant at the same ministry, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment without the option of a fine.

Mr Peter Mungara Mwaura, who was an assistant director of education at the ministry, was convicted of two charges and jailed for one year without the option of a fine.

SIMAM RELEASED

From the Interior ministry, Mr Moses Gitari, a senior deputy secretary, Mr Benjamin Isindu, who headed procurement office and Mr Michael Nduguya, a procurement officer, were convicted and ordered to pay a fine of Sh500,000 each or serve one year in jail.

Mr Richard Njoroge Kimani, an assistant commissioner at the Kenya Revenue Authority, was sentenced to one year in jail for soliciting for $57,000.

He was given the option of paying a fine of Sh500,000 and Sh1 million for another charge.

Others convicted of corruption-related offences include former Eldoret South MP Peris Simam and her husband.

They were jailed but then released after paying a fine.

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