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Former tourism chiefs jailed for fraud

Monday September 10 2012

Former Tourism Permanent Secretary Rebecca Nabutola (left) and former Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Achieng Ongonga (right). PHOTO /  FILE
Former Tourism Permanent Secretary Rebecca Nabutola (left) and former Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Achieng Ongonga (right). PHOTO / FILE
Nabutola, Ong'ong'a sent to prison
By PAUL OGEMBA [email protected]

Former Tourism permanent secretary Rebecca Nabutola and Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) ex-managing director Achieng Ong’ong’a have been convicted of conspiracy to defraud the ministry of Sh8.4 million.

The two will pay the price of a trip that was organised for permanent secretaries to familiarise themselves with the marketing of wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara in June 2007, a function also attended by President Mwai Kibaki.

Senior principal magistrate Lucy Nyambura on Monday ruled that the money requested by KTB from the Treasury was for marketing and asked how KTB ended up paying Sh8.4 million for a trip budgeted to cost Sh900,000, and which was to be funded by stakeholders in the tourism sector.

“The cost of the entire trip was Sh1.8 million which was to be sourced from stakeholders. No documents are there to show the other payments even after one stakeholder paid Sh500,000 for the trip.

"In fact the other accused (Duncan Muriuki) opened a fixed deposit account for the money and withdrew it soon after the trip was over,” said Ms Nyambura. The magistrate jailed Nabutola for four years while Ong’ong’a will serve three years.

The jail terms could increase to six and five years, respectively, if they fail to pay a fine of Sh1 million and Sh1.5 million, respectively.

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Their co-accused Duncan Muriuki, the managing director of Maniago Safaris and a former board member of KTB, got seven years in jail and a mandatory repayment of Sh18.6 million to the Tourism ministry.

Ms Nyambura ruled that the prosecution had proved beyond doubt that the three had jointly conspired to defraud the ministry of the funds despite being public officers entrusted with the management of public funds.

“In convicting them, I have considered that they were public officers entrusted with public funds but they breached that trust put on them by their offices,” said Nyambura.

Nabutola and Ong’ong’a join former Home Affairs permanent secretary Sylvester Mwaliko in a group of ex-government officials convicted of economic crimes committed during their tenure in office.

Mwaliko was last week handed a non-custodial sentence and fined Sh3 million for abuse of office over the Anglo-Leasing scandal.

Nabutola, Ong’ong’a and Muriuki were charged with a total of 11 counts of conspiracy to defraud, failure to adhere to rules governing procurement and abuse of office.

They were all found guilty of the first count of conspiracy to defraud KTB of Sh8.4 million to fund the permanent secretaries’ trip and will each serve three years in jail.

On the second count, Nabutola and Muriuki were charged with conspiracy to defraud the ministry of Sh400,000.

Found guilty

The magistrate ruled that it was evident Muriuki’s company received the money from the ministry even though the trip was funded by stakeholders and sentenced each to one year imprisonment.

Nabutola was also convicted of wilful failure to comply with public procurement rules and abuse of office and fined Sh1 million or serve additional two years in jail in default.

“Nabutola improperly conferred a benefit to Maniago Safaris without following procedures and abused her office as the chief accounting officer,” ruled Ms Nyambura.

Ong’ong’a was found guilty of two other charges of paying money for services not rendered and for failing to comply with procurement rules.

Ms Nyambura ruled that he failed to offer any explanation why the budgeted money increased from Sh1.8 million to Sh8.9 million and why he single-handedly gave the nod for the money to be paid to Maniago Safaris even though the company was not approved by the Tourism Board.

Muriuki will serve the additional three years for conspiring to defraud the ministry as well as refund Sh18.6 million, which is double the amount his company received from the tourism ministry.

In addition, he will a Sh500,000 fine for improperly receiving a benefit or serve additional one year in jail in default.