Nancy Gitonga @PeopleDailyKe
It was a rare crack of the anti-graft whip on big fish as former Local Government permanent secretary Sammy Kirui and ex-Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo were yesterday jailed for three years for being found guilty of abuse of office charges over the purchase of Sh283 million land in Mavoko, Machakos county, meant for a Nairobi cemetery.
Milimani anti-corruption court magistrate Douglas Ogoti also ordered the two to pay a fine of Sh1 million each for willful failure to comply with procurement laws.
The magistrate also found Gakuo’s co-accused Mary Ng’ethe, a former city council legal secretary and Alexander Musee guilty of knowingly giving false information about the land saga. They were sentenced to three years in prison each, while Ng’ethe was fined Sh52 million or serve another year in jail while Musee will pay a fine of Sh32 million or spend one more year behind bars.
The sentence could dim the otherwise sterling career of Gakuo as a performer in public positions, which saw him touted as among likely names to replace Polycarp Igathe as Deputy of Governor of Nairobi county.
Gakuo has also been a member of the Nairobi re-generation committee co-chaired by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Tourism Minister Najib Balala.
The cemetery scam unfolded in 2010 when the then Nairobi City Council bought land valued at Sh24 million at Sh283 million in an area rated as a far-flung wasteland bordering the southern fringes of Nairobi National Park.
The scandal roped in the then Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi when the then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) commenced investigations to establish whether he was party to the fraud. Mudavadi protested his innocence, accusing KACC of being used by his detractors to dent his political career.
KACC later cleared Mudavadi on grounds that no monies from the alleged illegal deal were deposited in his accounts.
Ng’ethe and Musee were also found guilty of giving a false, inflated valuation report which was relied on to purchase the land in question.
Ogoti said the court had carefully considered the evidence presented to it and came to a conclusion that it was proved against them.
“I find them guilty and I convict them accordingly,” he said.
“It was a clear case. Only they know why they acted the way they did and failed to stop embezzlement of public funds,” Ogoti ruled
The magistrate said the prosecution had established a prima facie (clear) case that Kirui and Gakuo knew the tender documents were false but did nothing to stop the embezzlement.
He said the lot acted passively and allowed an act of corruption to take place.
The accused were found to have committed the offence on December 18, 2008 at Jogoo House, Nairobi.
Musee chaired the tender committee that approved the payment to Naen Rech Ltd for the land in Mavoko, while Ng’ethe was the committee’s secretary.
Ng’ethe and Musee faced accusations of giving a misleading report, purporting that the committee had agreed to buy the controversial 120-acre plot that the prosecution said was worth just Sh24 million.
The four were charged after the prosecution established that they received substantial financial benefits towards the procurement of the land.
The anti-corruption agency said the price paid was far above the prevailing market rates at the time.
Gakuo was accused of neglecting his duties as Town Clerk.
The then President Mwai Kibaki suspended 13 top officials in the ministries of Local Government and Finance in the wake of the cemetery land scandal in 2008.
The then Attorney General Amos Wako gave KACC the go-ahead to charge the suspects.
The Mavoko land, intended to replace the already full Lang’ata cemetery, was found unsuitable for use as a burial site, the prosecution said.
Initial reports to show its unsuitability had cited long distance from Nairobi, apart from being in the wildlife range of Nairobi National Park.
The convicted persons have 14 days to appeal their sentences.
In 2012, Geoffrey Majiwa, who was the mayor of Nairobi when the scandal unfolded, was acquitted.
Anti-corruption court magistrate Lucy Nyambura ruled that the prosecution did not establish a case to warrant putting Majiwa on his defence.
She said Majiwa only signed the documents at the tail-end of the deal after all other processes had been done.
She added: “Even though they worked for the City Council, they were not involved in negotiations for the transactions of the cemetery land.”
The legal department, she said, had approved the same and the mayor only fulfilled his statutory duty by signing documents.
Also vindicated by the court was Geoffrey Kahindi who was not an employee of City Council when the contract negotiations started in 2007.