Information Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has appointed Jared Peter Odoyo Kwaga — one of the key suspects in a Sh2 billion graft probe targeting Migori Governor Okoth Obado — to the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) board.
In a February 8 gazette notice, Mr Mucheru listed Mr Kwaga alongside former Bonchari MP Zebedeo John Opore, KBC chairman Edward Musebe, former NGO Coordination Board member Dee Kivuva Mutisya, former newscaster Beatrice Marshall and former National Quality Control Laboratory Board member Kagiri Kamatu.
The seven started a three-year term on Friday, and will serve until February 7, 2022.
The KIMC is a semi-autonomous government agency that trains students in electronic and telecommunication engineering, film production, radio and television production, print and broadcast journalism, electronic and studio technology.
The new KIMC board members are among 200 individuals that received appointments in various state departments and agencies.
Mr Kwaga runs a Pasha Centre in Migori. Pasha Centres are part of a digital village project by the ICT Authority, which provide internet access to entrepreneurs seeking training and communication in rural areas.
The centres are privately owned and run, but get necessary assistance from the ICT Authority.
Mr Kwaga’s Pasha Centre is among nearly 40 others spread across the country and the only one in Migori.
But the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) believes that Mr Kwaga is also one of the proxies that Governor Obado used to siphon over Sh2 billion from county coffers.
When the anti-graft watchdog sought court assistance to trace and freeze assets believed to be part of Mr Obado’s fraud scheme, it listed Mr Kwaga as a first respondent.
Mr Kwaga owns seven companies that the EACC insists received money through dubious supply contracts before wiring the funds to Mr Obado in a complicated web of transactions.
The EACC adds that Mr Kwaga wired some of the graft proceeds to Mr Obado’s daughter Susan through a Sh1.9 million bank transfer in December 2014.
Mr Kwaga’s wife Christine Akinyi Ochola, brothers Patroba Ochanda Otieno and Joram Opala Otieno and his mother Penina Auma are also part of the scheme, as per the EACC’s court filings.
While the Migori-based businessman has not been found guilty of fraud, his appointment is certain to raise debate at a time the war on graft tops President Uhuru Kenyatta'a agenda - alongside healthcare, housing, manufacturing and food security.
EACC’s documents before court show that Mr Kwaga’s companies received Sh1.6 billion in dubious contracts that the watchdog is investigating, after which substantial amounts were wired to Mr Obado.
Another 37 pieces of land in Migori and its environs were acquired with funds believed to have been stolen, and 22 of them are registered in Mr Kwaga’s name.
According to the EACC, Governor Obado operated an intricate web of companies and accomplices that saw county funds transferred to his children’s accounts in Australia, Hong Kong and China.
Allegations are that part of the cash paid to Mr Kwaga was wired to the accounts of Scarlet Susan Okoth and Acholla Okoth.
Attempts to get comments from Mr Mucheru were futile as he did not respond to our calls.
But EACC spokesperson Yasin Amaro said Mr Kwaga's appointment must have been an oversight because any individual under such investigations cannot be appointed to public office as per law.
"If someone is under investigation they cannot be appointed to public office until investigations are completed. According to Chapter Six of the Constitution, it is a requirement.
"That's the reason people first come for clearance from EACC. Once we check out the facts on the ground on Monday, we will review everything and see what action to take," Mr Amaro said.
The appointment has threatened to spark a heated war between the EACC and ICT ministry as debate on whether the appointment should stand will likely place the two institutions on opposite ends of the fence.
Meanwhile, the fruits of the March 9 “handshake” continue to be felt in Nyanza following the recent parastatals appointments that has seen close allies of ODM party leader Raila Odinga land plum positions.
In the Kenyan Gazette notice dated February 8, a good number of the names from Nyanza were appointed as either chairpersons or members of various parastatal boards by President Kenyatta and his Cabinet secretaries.
The move comes in the wake of Mr Kenyatta’s assertion that the country will no longer stand the "winner-take-all" mentality of political contests while giving his commitment to ensure that even those in the opposition are accommodated in government.