In the good old days, corrupt public servants, mostly men, would stick their hands into the till, siphon billions and get away with it. From cash stashed in secret bank accounts, cash hidden under the beds and holes in their houses, in top of the range cars, pieces of land in prime estates, residential and commercial buildings and shares in investments companies, they had it going.
But the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) appears to have ridden into town, smoking gun in hand like a wrinkled Sheriff in a Wild West movie and it is smoking the bad boys out, seizing their bank and Sacco accounts and properties suspected to be proceeds of corruption. The proverbial tree has suddenly become slippery for the baboon, and those suspected to be corrupt are trooping out of the forest, with nary a set of knickers to cover their flaming behinds. With banks no longer safe havens to hide stolen loot, the going is so tough that some public servants have taken to stuffing stolen millions in graves, so the grapevine goes, or in their houses where the unlucky fall victim to theft by servant.
It is no longer business as usual and EACC boss Twalib Mbarak says he intends to make life very difficult for people who believe they can live lavishly from stolen public funds.
“We must cause pain for those accumulating illegal wealth within the public service so that they know they were employed to serve the public and not their individual interests. Our strategy is to take away their assets so that they don’t enjoy fruits of corrupt conduct,” said Mbarak.
Mbarak stated that from March to June this year alone, the commission has filed suits in court to recover unexplained assets estimated to be worth Sh4 billion held by public officials while in 2021, they filed a total of 20 asset recovery cases worth more than Sh7 billion.
“We know their motivation for engaging in corruption is to profit from illicit gains but we have also enhanced our investigations before instituting suits seeking orders that the assets in question be returned to the State on account of having been corruptly acquired,” said Mbarak.
Among the cases filed in the last three months is one against former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu who EACC claims took advantage when he was Kikuyu MP and Kiambu Governor to steal public funds worth Sh1.9 billion.
EACC claims that Waititu and his wife, Susan Wangari Ndung’u, devised a way of hiding the alleged stolen public funds in which they invested in properties and registered three companies as conduits of the illicit funds. Waititu, his wife and their three companies, Saika Two Estate Developers Limited, Bienvenue Delta Hotel and Bins Management Services Limited, cannot however enjoy the proceeds generated from the assets after High Court Judge Esther Maina issued an order freezing them.
Among the frozen properties are Bienvenue Delta Hotel located opposite the University of Nairobi, Jamii Bora Bank building, Solar House in Nairobi Central Business District, a building along Biashara Street and a house in upmarket Runda Estate. Others are seven vehicles and a tractor, and several pieces of land in Nairobi, Kiambu County, Machakos County and Kajiado County. EACC in its suit claimed that between January 2015 to July 2017, Waititu amassed wealth to the tune of Sh1,937,709,376 which is not commensurate to his known legitimate sources of income.
“Waititu worked in consonance with County officials while serving as Governor and engaged in schemes to embezzle public funds through fictitious and fraudulent procurement contracts after which he was paid huge kickbacks (which) he used to buy the properties,” said EACC lawyer Jacky Kibogy.
For Waititu, the anti-graft agency listed Sh805 million in his accounts, land and houses in Runda, Lucky Summer, Migaa Estate, Embakasi Ranching, Kayole and Thindigwa all valued at Sh280 million and five vehicles suspected to be proceeds of corruption.
His wife allegedly had Sh276 million cash in her accounts, four parcels of land in Kitengela and Kabete valued at Sh19 million while Saika Two Estate Developers Limited had landed properties registered under its name valued at Sh662 million and Sh164 million in the account. Before the dust could settle for Waititu, EACC went after Eric Kipkurui Mutai, who is a cleaning supervisor at the State Department for Correctional Services, for allegedly swindling Sh257 million meant for purchasing food and ration for prisoners.
Mutai thought he had struck gold by colluding with other prisons officers and used the money to invest in land, houses and cars before the commission obtained a court order freezing the assets.
Justice Maina stopped Mutai from selling or transferring his multi-million shillings assets in Nairobi, Kisii and Kericho Counties that include seven vehicles valued at Sh32 million, a house in Nairobi worth Sh17.5 million, two parcels of land in Kisii County valued at Sh25 million and a piece of land in Kericho County valued at Sh17 million. EACC claimed that the cleaner with a monthly salary of Sh20,800 registered seven companies between 2012 and 2016 for the sole purpose of siphoning public funds on the guise of supplying foodstuffs to prisoners.
“His companies were the conduits for embezzling the Sh257 million through fictitious contracts for supply of food and ration to the state department of correctional services when the goods were never supplied,” said Kenduiwa.
At the Ministry of Education, Joshua Ocharo devised a weird trick to steal Sh11 million by a registering a non-existent secondary school which he used to channel Sh11 million meant for free Day Secondary School to his own account.
According to documents filed in court, Ocharo, who is a clerk at the ministry, was tasked to prepare a list of funds distribution schedule for free day secondary school but cleverly inserted the name of Mundeku Secondary School in the final list. He gave his personal account as the school’s account and when the ministry disbursed the funds, Ocharo became Sh11 million richer without breaking any sweat.
“He knowingly deceived his supervisors into forwarding a falsified final schedule by making them believe the payment was as per the data forms submitted by the Sub-County Education officers from all over the country resulting to public funds being paid into his personal account,” said EACC.
Upon receiving the money, Ocharo hurriedly tried to conceal it by purchasing two plots of land in Komarock and Movoko Township and a car worth Sh2.3 million which he has been stopped from enjoying after the court froze them.
The latest entrance in the EACC bad books is Nicholas Owino Ochiel, a valuation officer at the Ministry of Lands and Tracy Njoki Kinge who is a finance officer at the National Treasury. According to EACC, Ochiel is suspected to have engaged in corruption and acquired properties worth Sh1.2 billion while Ms Kinge is suspected to have paid herself Sh36 million from public coffers and used it to purchase treasury bills. The EACC CEO said that their strategy of using asset recovery of stolen public funds is becoming effective in the fight against corruption since it scares the suspects and stops them from enjoying the proceeds.