Paul Muhoho and Bernard Gitau
Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong was yesterday charged with abuse of office and conspiracy to defraud the county government Sh8 million through the controversial solid waste management project.
He faced the four-count indictment before the Nairobi Anti-Corruption chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti alongside three county executive committee members and will be remanded at the Integrity Centre Police Station until tomorrow when the bail ruling will be pronounced.
Ogoti issued warrant of arrest against two other county officials Timon Otieno Mboga, Allan Ekweny Omachari and directors of Madam R Enterprise Ltd identified as Kenyan businesswomen Edna Odhiambo Odoyo and Benish Achieng’ Omullo and German Sebastian Hallensbleben.
Prosecutor Alexander Muteti strongly opposed their release on bail on the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions, on the basis that prospective witnesses were intimidated by demonstrations that rocked Busia town on Tuesday in support of the embattled governor.
However, a team of defence lawyers, led by Siaya senator James Orengo argued that no compelling reasons had been provided to justify denial of bail.
The accused persons are alleged to have colluded to defraud the county government by entering into a memorandum of understanding for feasibility studies on solid waste management to be carried out by Madam R Enterprises without following formal procurement regulations. The alleged offence was committed in Busia town between March 15 and September 25, 2014.
Ojaamong was accused of abuse of office by engaging the firm to handle the project while on a visit to Berlin, Germany on April 7, 2014 when it had not been included in the county government’s 2013/14 budget and approved payment to Madam R Enterprises without authority on May 12, 2014.
County Finance executive Leonard Wanda and the chief finance officer Allan Omachari were charged with approving the payment on May 9, 2014. The two Kenyan directors of the firm, Edna and Benish, were charged with fraudulent acquisition of public property by separately receiving Sh4million on May 14 and September 25, 2014.
The two businesswomen were charged with failure to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) of Sh1,103,448 to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) after collecting the payments from the county government.
Orengo protested at the prosecution’s opposition to bail saying that Ojaamong had voluntarily surrendered to the EACC officers at Integrity Centre yesterday morning while the other three officials personally presented themselves at the EACC offices in Kisumu. He said they had co-operated fully with the agency’s officers during the investigations.
The defence lawyers said the accused persons were law-abiding citizens and were ready to comply with all conditions imposed by the court. There was no likelihood of their absconding, they said. “Pre-trial detention should be a measure of last resort,” Orengo argued.
However, Muteti said one of the EACC investigators, Timothy Munge had sworn an affidavit that Ojaamong had called a press conference and accused the agency’s officials of malice and political witch-hunt.
Earlier, a handcuffed and seemingly subdued Ojaamong termed his arrest “the usual mere Kenyan drama”.
It was a humbling day for a man used to the trappings of power, from a convoy of high-end vehicles, handful of bodyguards among other preferential treatments.
But a day after he scoffed arrest orders by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ojaamong seemed to have swallowed his words and blamed his woes on political witch hunt.
“I am very innocent, it is all politics,” he said as he was led into an EACC van outside Integrity Centre.
He was sandwiched between armed police officers. The governor was arrested in the morning and grilled for more than two hours.