Thugge turns against boss in dams saga

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 00:00 |
Former Treasury CS Henry Rotich (left) and PS Kamau Thugge at Milimani Law Courts, yesterday. Photo/PD/CHARLES MATHAI

Former Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge has thrown his former boss Henry Rotich under the bus, literally, after he made an about turn and agreed to testify against him in the multi-billion-shilling Kimwarer and Arror dams scandal.

The new turn of events emerged yesterday when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji withdrew charges against Thugge, a move that will see him become a key prosecution witness against Rotich and 24 others.

Haji, through Alexander Muteti, told Nairobi Anti-corruption Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti that they were withdrawing charges against Thugge and former Wildlife Principal Secretary Susan Koech.

“I have instructions from the DPP to make an application in respect to Thugge and Koech to withdraw the matter under section 87 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and the charges against the two marked as withdrawn, as the two shall be treated as prosecution witnesses against all accused persons,” said Muteti.

Crucial witness

Ogoti allowed the application by the prosecution and directed that Thugge and Koech’s cash bail be given back to them.

As an accounting officer during his time at Treasury, Thugge is now scheduled to shed more light on circumstances that surrounded the transactions on the mega projects, particularly on who originated it and authorised their construction and payments.

Sources indicated that Thugge in his statement to the detectives, had given a clear roadmap of how the projects were muted, commenced, progressed and the funds released.

It would appear that it is on the basis of the statement he made with the police that may have persuaded the DPP into considering making him a crucial prosecution witness.

Contacted for comment, Thugge’s lawyer Philip Murgor said Thugge had all along been destined to become a State witness due to the role he played in the transactions.

“At all material times during the process, Thugge was playing his role as the accounting officer in accordance with the law.

It was wrong for him to have been lumped together with all the other suspects,” Murgor said.

Procurement procedures

The court also granted the DPP 14 days to supply Rotich and his co-accused with the witness statements of Thugge and Koech.

At the same time, Ogoti gave the DPP one month to produce  18 Italians charged alongside Rotich over the Kimwarer dam scandal.

The Italians are the directors of the companies that were awarded the multi-billion shilling contract for the construction of the two dams.

This is after Muteti sought to be given more time to produce the Italians saying the office of the DPP has already sent a mutual legal assistance request to Italian authorities to hand over the directors of the companies to face trial in the matter

The High Court has also dropped charges against other accused persons in the matter namely Benazzi Grazio and Bernard Gibet and Livingstone Bumbe. 

On July 23, 2019, Rotich was accused of flouting procurement procedures in awarding a contract worth billions of shillings for the construction of the two dams to Italian firm CMC de Ravenna.

The former CS and his co-accused were accused of taking part in fraud in the planned construction of two multi-purpose dams projects in Elgeyo Marakwet, estimated at Sh63 billion.

The prosecution had said that investigations into the matter revealed that government officials flouted all procurement rules and abused their oath of office to ensure the scheme went through. While detailing their crimes, Haji said the officials had breached public debt regulations.

“If this project was carried in the strict adherence to the law and existing policies, it should not have cost Sh63 billion. 

The evidence establishes malpractices that impacted on our national debt,” said the DPP.

“Some Sh4.6 billion was borrowed in addition to the principal amount to pay interest in advance during the construction period, which to date has not commenced.

As a country, we continue to pay interest on the loan. We borrowed, the loan had interest and we borrowed more money to pay the interest which also attracted interest,” Haji said.

Rotich is on record confirming that the government had spent Sh12 billion to secure funding for the construction of the two dams, with the sum having been paid out to meet set conditions before the actual funding.

“Like any other standard loan facility signed by the government, there are several conditions to be met before funds are available to the borrower and the contractor to commence work,” he said in a press statement published in local dailies at the height of the police investigations in March.

The Sh12 billion was part of the conditions precedent outlined in a financing agreement approved by the Attorney General before the National Treasury signed it on April 18, 2017, he explained at the time.

The amount entailed an arrangement fee of Sh545.9 million, a Sh359.5 million commitment fee, a Sh3.5 million agency fee and a Sh11.1 billion insurance premium paid to an Italian contractor.

According to Rotich, the government-owned Italian firm – Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero  – was paid a Sh7.8 billion advance fee representing 15 per cent of the contract amount.

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