Seth Onyango @SethManex
Statements recorded with the police by yesterday reveal explosive new details on how a web of shell firms looted the National Youth Service (NYS) with one firm being paid Sh100,000 for one towel to take home Sh20 million for supplying 200 towels.
Another company receiving as much as Sh100 million for supplying just 100 car tyres, according to statements currently being recorded with Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
A multi-pronged approach to nail the suspects in a Sh9 billion scam has been intensified with DCI Director George Kinoti, National Intelligence Service (NIS) boss Wachira Kameru and the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji taking direct charge.
Both Kinoti and Kameru have been tasked with briefing President Uhuru Kenyatta about the progress of the probe on a daily basis. Also roped into the investigations is the National Treasury.
Questions are also emerging on whether some senior officers in NIS and the civil service may have concealed the information from reaching the President in December when the Central Bank of Kenya first raised the red flag.
The President is said to have been kept in the dark and only learned about the scandal recently when the media blew the whistle.
Preliminary investigations into the heist have revealed how top NYS officials in some instances lured unsuspecting individuals to open bank accounts that were used to wire stolen funds.
In what highlights blatant theft of public funds with impunity, individuals operating phantom companies were apparently given local purchase orders without due process being followed.
In shocking revelations of internal correspondence obtained by detectives, some firms were paid millions for supplying nothing while others were paid exorbitantly for supplying a few goods.
In a looting spree that lasted three months, one company was paid Sh20 million for supplying 200 towels, an exorbitant cost that translates to Sh100,000 per towel.
Another firm received Sh100 million for supplying the youth service with 100 vehicular tyres, an equivalent of Sh1 million for a single tyre, while another fishy company supplied mosquito nets and was given Sh100 million.
At the same time, another firm which purportedly erected tents for the NYS personnel was paid Sh180 million in two tranches of Sh90 million each.
The damning revelations emerged from statements recorded by detectives from some 40 people that were summoned to the DCI.
Additionally, Sh200 million was wired to an account that reportedly delivered spare parts of grading machines while another received Sh40 million for supplying 3,000 blankets, translating to Sh13,000 per piece.
Duped into a scandal
One man who was questioned told detectives that a friend who worked at NYS lured him into opening a bank account that was later used to fleece funds from the youth agency.
The individual (name withheld) is said to have had an ailing relative and was in desperate need of financial aid, and would occasionally visit his friend at NYS headquarters to help him offset the cost of medication.
It was at that point that his friend, who holds a plum position at NYS, told him to open a bank account promising him he “would never have to ask for money from him again”.
Excited with the generosity, he quickly opened an account where Sh60 million of NYS funds was deposited without any prior explanation for service delivery.
Narrating the story to detectives, the individual said he was duped into the scandal.
“I had never tendered for supply to NYS and I do not know how to tender. I walked into NYS and I was given a local purchase order worth Sh60 million. I do not know the items supplied, neither do I know what was supplied to NYS,” he reportedly told detectives.
He is, however, said to have been paid Sh600,000 to help with medical bills.
As it emerged, the said individual is one of the many that were paid colossal amounts of money stolen from NYS yet they did not supply any goods or offer any services.
According to detectives who spoke on condition of anonymity, LPOs were being dished out like confetti in what shows the level of impunity among the implicated NYS officials.
Questions are now being raised on how such massive plunder of public resources went on from May to December undetected. A number of commercial banks are also on the spotlight, with detectives trying to unearth how they allowed apparently illegal, massive transactions in their banking halls.
Some of the individuals are reported to have withdrawn Sh200 million over the counter from a certain bank with no red flag raised.
Under strict CBK restrictions any amount above Sh1 million must be explained and authorised in writing.
“Was the regulator aware of such dealings?” detectives posed yesterday.
Last week, anti-banking fraud detectives froze the accounts of 13 firms linked to alleged theft of Sh9 billion from the NYS.
They are part of phony companies that were said to have received Sh121 million from NYS.
It follows a court order last month, granting police permission to freeze three accounts operated by the firms.
DCI sleuths were granted the orders through an affidavit sworn by police constable Kenneth Kemei to enable the department probe the firms.
Nairobi chief magistrate Francis Andayi allowed the police to withhold all monies in the accounts for 90 days pending investigations.
As part of the facilitation, the aforementioned banks are required to furnish detectives with account-opening details that the 13 firms used as well as transactional statements.
The DCI is leading the multi-agency team to recover the stolen funds and arrest those who orchestrated the heist.