The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has recalled its Commissioner General John Njiraini from terminal leave to “manage the crisis” after the agency was rocked by one of the biggest corruption purges to hit a State corporation in the country.
This comes in the wake of about 70 employees arrested or arraigned over tax evasion allegations.
Insiders at the agency said that Mr Njiraini, who was serving his terminal leave, was back in the office.
Mr Njiraini did not pick our calls on Wednesday.
But KRA board chairman Francis Muthaura said they have confidence in the commissioner-general and management team.
Mr Muthaura said that the ongoing investigations are an initiative of KRA and relevant government investigative agencies.
“This should therefore neither be characterised as a personal agenda driven by specific individuals within the authority nor a scheme targeting groups or categories of staff,” Mr Muthaura said in a statement, adding that the board is treating incidents of tax evasion as serious crimes that demand resolute action against both taxpayers and staff members who abet such practices.
Insiders have, however, accused top management of setting up junior staff for the raid and leaving the fat cats to walk free when the tax evasion scam goes high up the establishment.
The Nation has learnt that some staff have threatened to sabotage tax collection.
“Some of the staff who used to come to the office with personal computers are now keeping them at home and it is up to KRA to provide us with tools to collect taxes,” an employee said.
“There is a silent go-slow. You will see people at their desks but nothing is actually going on,” another staff said.
On Wednesday, more employees were arraigned as several others sought to challenge their arrest and detention.
Eighteen staff appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Mayova as the Director of Criminal Investigations sought to have them detained for 21 days.
Through State lawyer Duncan Ondimu, the DCI told the court that the suspects had formed a social media group on Telegram with the sole purpose of interfering with the ongoing investigations.
He said that in the chat group, the suspects had discussed how to sabotage operations at KRA and jeopardise the ongoing probe.
He alleged that the suspects used pseudo names and that others have already confessed to be members of the group. “Investigations are at a critical stage, and one of the key aspects is electronic evidence, and the more the delay the higher the chance of interference with evidence,” said Mr Ondimu.
He told the court that the suspects’ activities pose a risk to national security and the economy. He said there are compelling reasons to have the suspects detained.
At the same time, 38 other suspects locked up for 14 days moved to the high court to challenge their detention while seven sought to block their arrest.
Through Prof Tom Ojienda, they argued that their detention violates their right to freedom.
Prof Ojienda argued that the suspects cannot interfere with the ongoing probe because they had been interdicted.
Meanwhile, four other suspects summoned for questioning sought anticipatory bail while the court allowed three others to present themselves to the police. They are Joseph Kuyo Legei, Geoffrey Kipsang Ngeno, Felix Ndambuki Kimeu, Caleb Angwenyi Auka and Moses Mirugi, Charity Kinyua and Purity Muthamia respectively.
The four filed a suit against the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions claiming that a tweet by the DCI on May 12 summoning them for questioning on May 15 also alluded that they were involved in the scandal that has rocked the taxman.
“According to Section 52 of the National Police Act, a notice compelling attendance to a person should be given to the intended person in writing and accordingly, the Penal Code consequence intended by Section 52 do not flow by way of social media,” lawyer Morris Kimuli said.
According to the lawyer, his clients were apprehensive that they might face unlawful detention.
The DCI told the court that already investigators had obtained orders to access KRA computer systems which include Itax, Legacy, Integrated Customs Management System, Simba 2005, Manifest Management System, Biometrics Access System and KNESWS.