Worrying trend as corruption bug rears its ugly head in families
Zadock Angira and Eric Wainaina
Last week’s arrest and prosecution of Migori Governor Zachary Okoth Obado and four members of his family over corruption allegations, is the latest illustration of an emerging trend where public officers and their close relatives, including spouses and children are being implicated in schemes to loot institutions they head.
The governor, who spent the weekend in custody, is today expected in court alongside his four children to plead for bail pending the hearing of the case. They are accused of stealing over Sh70 million from the county.
Obado’s arrest coincided with a court ruling in Nairobi, where members of the Ngirita family were ordered to surrender parcels of land and vehicles to the State after the court ruled the properties were acquired from proceeds of the multi-billion-shilling National Youth Service (NYS) scandal.
The governor’s court appearance today also coincides with the expected arraignment of Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who faces corruption allegation involving Sh57 million from the Constituencies Development Fund kitty.
Companies owned by her son and daughter have been named as beneficiaries of some of the money in a scandal, that threatens the outspoken MP’s political future.
People Daily has established that it is common practice for top public officials to ask their spouses, children and other proxies to register companies as directors, after which they are awarded lucrative contracts in skewed tendering processes.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) boss Twalib Mbarak yesterday said that most scandals in national government and counties, have links where top officials use close relatives to register companies, to do business with public entities.
“The commission has observed that many companies doing business with counties are owned by proxies, including family members of governors, MCAs, Chief Officers and other politicians, who deliberately skew the tendering process to ensure they get the jobs.
EACC is focusing on conflict of interests and exaggeration of tender prices which is rampant especially in the counties,” Mbarak said.
Other than Obado, former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and his wife Susan Njeri are in court for allegedly conspiring to milk the county dry, through dubious tenders where EACC accuses them of getting hefty kickbacks.
Another example is the case of former Principal Secretary Lillian Omollo whose accounts and those of her children were frozen in the second edition of the NYS scandal.
Governor Obado, who has a pending murder case, is back in the court corridors, this time over a scandal that has sucked in almost his entire family.
On Thursday last week, Obado was arraigned alongside his four children and 11 county staff and suppliers over graft claims.
The prosecution says in court papers that suppliers who won lucrative tenders through corruption, wired the money to Obado and his children’s accounts.
“The investigations were in respect of Sh73.4 million being sums indirectly received by the governor through his children, who received multiple payments from companies trading with Migori County government,” the prosecutor said.
After the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji approved the charges, Obado and his children - Achola Dan, Susan Scarlet, Evelyne Adhiambo and Jerry Zachary, surrendered to the Kisii EACC offices before they were driven to Nairobi.
Obado allegedly received a total of Sh73,474,376 indirectly through his children from companies trading with the county government between the financial years 2013/2014 and 2016/2017.
A total of Sh38.9 million was wired to accounts held by Obado’s children, documents show.
Part of the money was allegedly used to pay the children’s school fees, upkeep maintenance and medical bills in Australia, Scotland and the United Kingdom.
The family also allegedly used the money to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser V8, Sh34.5 million was allegedly used to purchase a house in Loresho Ridge, Nairobi, for daughter -Adhiambo.
EACC identified the companies as Misoft Company Ltd, Tarchdog Printers, Deltrack ICT Services, Seletrack Consultants, Mactebac Contractors, Joyush Business, Swyfcon Engineering, Atinus Services, Kajulu Business, Victorius Investment, Dolphus Softwares, Dankey Press and Pesulus Services.
The proprietors of these companies were Obado’s proxies, including three brothers.
The three are Jared Peter Kwaga, Patroba Ochanda and Joram Opala, and their mother Penina Auma Otago.
Others are Kwaga’s wife Christine Akinyi and his sister-in-law Carolyne Onyango.
Jared and Akinyi are family friends of the Obado’s and co-directors of Misoft, with Akinyi also owning Atinus Services and Dankey Press while Opala owns Deltrack ICT services, Tarchdog Printers, Seletrack Consultants and Mactebac Contractors.
Ochanda is the proprietor of Joysush Business, Swyfon Engineering and Dolphus Software, while their mother owns Pesulus Services and Kajulu Business while Anyango, who is a sister-in-law of Jared, owns Victorious Investment.
The former Kiambu Governor was arrested and charged alongside his wife Susan Njeri and eight county officials with corruption claims over the irregular award of tenders worth Sh588,198,328.
The EACC further established that Waititu and his wife, through their company, Saika Two Estate Developers Limited, received Sh25,624,500 from Testimony Enterprises Limited, a firm contracted by the county to develop roads through irregular tendering.
“Once the funds were paid by Kiambu County government, a total of Sh25,624,500 was remitted to entities associated with Waititu,” the EACC said.
The EACC had wanted the couple’s daughter, Monica Njeri, who is also a co-director in the family’s company, charged alongside her parents.
She was, however, exonerated by the DPP, who said she was not aware of the dealings. She was, however, grilled by detectives.
“Upon review, we find that she was a sleeping director and not active in the affairs of the company,” Haji said.
Among those charged alongside Waititu were Charles Chege, a contractor and Luka Mwangi Waihinya, the chief officer in charge of roads.
Wangari, the then First Lady, was awarded a tender through her company, Sugawa Limited, for the construction of Kiambu bus terminus.
Another company linked to her, Connex Logistics Africa Limited, was awarded a tender to supply tyres.
His three daughters, Ruth Njeri, Diana Wangoko and Ruth Mumbi, owned companies that were awarded supply tenders by the governor in alleged conflict of interest.
Wangoko, the director of Beedee Management Services, supplied garbage skips while Mumbi who owns Bins Management Services with one John Mwangi Kimani also supplied tyres, first aid kits, water supply pipes and garbage collection protective equipment.
Chege is the owner of Testimony Enterprises together with his wife Beth Wangechi Mburu.
Detectives established that the company was awarded tenders even before it had opened a bank account, raising queries about its previous operations.
According to the EACC, the company opened an account with Equity Bank on March 27, 2018, 18 days after it signed for the tender.
In another case, Waititu and his wife are said to have received Sh5.2 million from the firm through their company, Bienvenue Delta Hotel Ltd.
Investigations by the EACC and the Asset Recovery Agency revealed that the former PS for Public Service deposited money in her children’s accounts.
In October 2018, 10 accounts belonging to Omollo and her children were frozen after detectives told the court that the cash deposits of millions of shillings were made in the months when theft of funds was reported at the NYS.
The accounts had a total of Sh33.1 million. Omollo’s seven bank accounts had Sh20.6 million while that of her children - Sheela Mbogo, Stephanie Marigu Mbogo and Shalom Malaika Kamweti - had Sh12.5 million.
Omollo had said the cash was from her farming business in Bondo and payments for consultancy services to her husband Dick Oneko but the detectives dismissed the evidence.
One of the beneficiaries of the multi-billion National Youth Service (NYS) graft was the family of the Naivasha-based Ngirita family.
Lucy Wambui Ngirita, her son Jeremiah Ngirita and daughters Ann Wambui Ngirita, and Phyllis Njeri Ngirita had conspired to defraud the NYS of millions of shillings by claiming they had supplied the NYS with foodstuff.
A family that a few years back would struggle to put food on the table, suddenly rose to financial stardom.
One of the key players from the family, Ann, aged 32 and a mother of one, sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2008.
Investigations revealed that the family did not supply the alleged food items and last week, the High Court ordered that some of the properties owned by the family be forfeited to the State.
They included residential buildings, parcels of land and a car. One of the properties was a church plot sold at Sh45 million.
The Ngirita family received Sh361 million from the NYS between November 2015 and April 2018.
Payment was split into 79 transactions in a scheme designed not to raise a red flag. The money was also intra-transferred within the same bank into accounts owned by family members.
Ann received Sh211 million through her firms, Waluco Investments and Ngiwaco Investments.
She then transferred Sh58 million to her personal account at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and bought a Sh46 million plot in Naivasha and another in Nakuru for Sh7 million.
Jeremiah, on the other hand, received Sh87.9 million through his company, Jerrycathy, and bought plots in Naivasha and Nakuru for Sh2.5 million.
He then jointly with his mother bought a parcel of land in Waitaluk in Kitale for Sh20 million.
Njeri, though did not supply anything, received Sh57.2 million which was paid directly to her personal account, contrary to procedure, according to the Asset Recovery Agency.
“The investigations reveal that Ms Njeri was paid directly to her personal account, which is contrary to procedure.
This is a clear case of fraud as there is no evidence of goods and services procured by NYS,” Assets Recovery Authority (ARA) said in March last year.
KCB would later be fined for failing to report suspicious transactions.
The Ngiritas, for months, have been defending their source of wealth in court after the ARA lodged a case on grounds that they were proceeds of crime.
They however, failed to demonstrate how they acquired money and properties in Naivasha, Nakuru and Kitale.
The MP is expected to appear in a Mombasa court over a Sh57 million graft case involving the Malindi Constituency Development Fund.
Jumwa was ordered to surrender to Port Police Station, Mombasa, after she failed to appear in court on Friday.
The DPP on Thursday ordered the arrest of Jumwa and six others in connection with the graft case.
On Friday, Wachu Abdhalla, Kennedy Onyango, Bernard Kai, Sophia Charo, Margaret Kalume and Robert Wanje appeared before Mombasa Chief Magistrate Edna Nyaloti, where they faced 13 counts including forgery, fraud in procurement and money laundering.
Four companies linked to Jumwa are said to have received a total of Sh312,624,464. Out of this, Sh57,711,690 was allegedly wired to her account.
Between March 2014 and August 2018, her children’s company, Kaseru Construction Ltd received Sh64.7 million from Kilifi County through their Equity Bank account.
When the payments were made Jumwa received Sh3 million, according to the DCI. Jumwa’s daughter is alleged to have received Sh40,685,000 from the same account.
Another company run by Jumwa’s son, Gadu Stores, is said to have been contracted to supply ECD furniture to Kilifi County.