It was a historic day in prosecution of graft cases in Kenya as 20 of 54 suspects arrested over part of the Sh9 billion National Youth Service (NYS) scam were arraigned in the anti-corruption court in Nairobi yesterday.
It was a rare scene in the Milimani chief magistrate’s court as the accused over-crowded the room as they accompanied by a larger team of lawyers.
The painstaking process of reading out the charges progressed slowly for about 10-hours, as nearly every suspect faced at least five counts of graft-related accusations and they had to plead individually to each.
Youth Affairs PS Lillian Mbogo-Omollo and NYS director general Richard Ndubai were the centre of attention being the senior-most among the suspects.
Before the Milimani Anti-Corruption Court chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti, Omollo and Ndubai were charged with abuse of office, wilful failure to comply with applicable procedures on guidelines relating to the management of public funds among other counts.
Their files contained at least seven counts in different charge sheets that spelt out separate counts they will each answer to.
Behind the charge sheets, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is understood to have been amassing evidence to prosecute what is bound to become the biggest anti-graft case in Kenya’s history.
All the accused persons present in court variously denied charges relating to the loss of Sh468 million, part of the Sh 9 billion lost at the service.
Since DPP Noordin Haji took office, this is the biggest number of people arrested and arraigned in court in connection of the multi-billion NYS scandal.
His move is aimed at cupping mega graft cases in the country to see that those involved are brought to book.
On Monday Haji recommended for the 54 suspects to be charged over the loss of the money saying that he has sufficient evidence against them.
The prosecution alleges that the PS used her office to improperly approved the payment of Sh28,766,700 million to Ameri Trade Limited for goods that were never delivered.
According to the charge sheet, Omollo committed the offence between January 1, 2015, and March 21, 2017.
“As the Permanent Secretary and the accounting officer of the said ministry, used the said office to improperly confer a benefit of Sh 28,766,700 to Ameri Trade Limited by unlawfully authorizing payment to the Head of accounting in the said ministry for goods not delivered,” read the charge sheet.
While Ndubai alone is accused of wilful failure to comply with sections 68 (1) (a) and (B) of the Public Financial Management Act 2012, by unlawfully applying public funds entrusted under his care to unlawful payment of goods not supplied by Ameri Trading Company.
Apart from the above charges facing Ndubai, he and Omollo also face other multiple charges involving the NYS scam which are in 10 separate court files, where they share charges alongside other suspects.
In the case10 companies and more than 40 government officials have been charged with NYS scandal.
Omollo and Ndubai are charged alongside senior deputy director Nicholas Ahere, Finance Director Wellington Lubira and former head of Mechanical and Transport Branch Evans Kundu.
Others are Sammy Michuki, Sophia Kinyua, Rodgers Nzioka, Peter Wanna, Humphrey Mbogo, Welenalo Mulupi, Ferdinand Pronto, Christopher Simbauni, Sammy Mwangi, Michael Ojiambo,Clement Murange, Stephen Jimenez, Peter Muguongo, Peter Muritu, Stephen Muchai, Lucas Otieno,George Puma, Josephat Njoronge, David Wainaina, Simon Kiiru,David Kiiru,Ezekiel Osoro,Don Kariungi, Kenneth Mwathi, James Katululu and George Wakuka.
Directors of companies linked to the case include Anne Ngirita, Phylis Njeri, Catherine Mwai, Anthony Wamiti, Peter Kimani, James Thuita, Yvonne Mgugi, Jeremiah Ngirita, Lucy Ngirita, Andrine Nyambura, Catherine Kamuyu, Serah Muguru, Samuel Kanai and James Katululu.
The companies involved in the case are Annwar Investment, Njewanga Investments, Arkroad Holdings Ltd, Kunjiwa Enterprises, Ameri Trade Ltd, Ngiwacho Entreprises, Jerrycathy Enterprises, Firstling Supplies Ltd, Kalabash Food Supplies and Ersatz Enterprises.
The suspects who include Omollo and Ndubai were brought to Milimani Law Courts in eight vehicles, three Land Rovers and five Subaru with heavily armed police escort from the DCI offices in Nairobi. They hd spent the night in separate police stations in Nairobi.
They were hauled separately into court at noon by officers who appeared to handle them courteously.
PS Omollo and other accused persons were locked up at the Milimani court’s basement cells for one hour as they waited for the prosecution and their lawyers to put their papers together.
About 100 defence lawyers present in court objected to their clients being charged under different files.
PS Omollo and Ndubai are being represented by lawyer Davis Osiemo, Stephen Ligunya and Cliff Ombeta respectively.
Also present were lawyers Gachie Mwanza, Kihanga Mwangi, Getange Tom, Sam Ogutu and Miguos Ogamba among others representing the rest of the accused persons.
Lawyer Ligunya for Omollo argued that the prosecution was ambushing them by bringing piecemeal charges which they felt could be prejudicial to their clients.
They said that the prosecution’s move to open 10 different files was an abuse of the court process.
In court the DPP was represented by senior state counsel Emmy Kamau,Joseph Riungu, Mary Gateru,and Duncan Ondimu
The prosecution opposed the release of the suspects on bail and at the same time urged the court to issue warrants of arrest against the suspects who did not appear in court.
The prosecution argued it had 10 files on different matters and different transactions involved in the scandal and wanted each file treated separately in terms of bail application.
The prosecution informed the court that the charges facing the accused persons were serious in nature.
Assistant DPP Kamau urged the court to issue a warrant of arrest for the suspects who failed to turn up in court and opted to send their lawyers.
“That could send their lawyers to represent them in court means they knew they were supposed to be in court but chose not to come,” the prosecutor said.
The prosecution asked the court to determine bail options for the suspects based on the individual charges they were facing.
In the cases the accused persons risk a 10-year jail term or both the jail term and fine if the court finds them guilty of the offences as charged.
According to Section 48(1) of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, each of the offences carries a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.
Additionally, the offences carry a mandatory fine equal to two times the amount of the amount of money lost. This means, Omollo and her co-accused face up to Sh58,533,400 in fines.
In line with the Public Management Act 2012, an accounting officer found guilty of having committed any indiscipline act, the CS in charge of the ministry under which the officer operates will take various measures including revoking his or her position as the accounting officer. Hearing for bail application was still continuing by 9pm last night.