Anti-corruption agencies are now banking on out-of-court settlements to avoid protracted legal battles that slow the fight against graft.
DPP Noordin Haji and EACC boss Twalib Mbarak yesterday said alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are faster, save funds, and, in most cases, lead to recovery of stolen public assets. They spoke in Kilimani, Nairobi. The EACC reverted Sh2 billion land to the University of Nairobi. The commission reclaimed the 4.7 acres from a private company.
“Cases in courts tend to drag for inordinately long period. Alternative dispute mechanisms are time saving, easier and faster. It is allowed in law provided the accused agrees to surrender the property and the process is open,” Mbarak said.
Their change of tack comes in the wake of intense criticisms of the Judiciary, which has been accused of dragging cases and granting low bails to corruption suspects.
On Friday, Haji, DCI chief George Kinoti, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga lashed out at the courts for derailing the war. They spoke at the National Anti-Corruption Conference at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi.
The DPP yesterday said they are keen to expedite cases.
“There are other much faster processes that we can enter into, instead of sitting in court and everybody being given a chance to argue their point,” he said.
Haji was, however, quick to add that the new strategy has nothing to do with the perceived bad blood between his office and the DCI on one hand, and the Judiciary. He said alternative dispute resolution methods are anchored in law.
“There are other alternatives, not necessarily implicating anybody. If we can agree and get monies and properties that we want efficiently and effectively, then that is a better option,” he said.
The UoN land had been illegally allocated Aberdare Engineering Construction Limited. It hosted the university staff estate. The firm sued UoN and demanded that it vacate.
The university lodged complaints with the anti-graft agency, which, in turn, instituted investigations that led to the reclamation. The commission said the firm had forged ownership documents. The company sought an out-of-court settlement when the EACC filed civil and criminal cases against it. It surrendered the property.
Haji said several private institutions and individuals have offered to surrender public assets they illegally acquired after the agencies entered into negotiations with them.
He cited the Sh64.5 million that Family Bank recently returned to the Central Bank after it was implicated in the handling of money stolen from the National Youth Service.
“We‘ve managed to recover money stolen from the NYS. Family Bank was the first and there’re more banks queuing on the same issue of NYS offering to return the money that were obtained through crime. Some of them have sent overtures that they are willing to have out-of-court settlements, but we are still considering,” he said.
The DPP said that through the ADR mechanism, they have also reclaimed a Sh154 million parcel belonging to Race Course Primary School, Nairobi.
“The message is clear; we shall not just stop at taking people to court. What we are doing, moving forward, is to ensure what belongs to the mwananchi and government is rightly reverted,” Haji said.
Mbarak said the commission filed court cases seeking to recover Sh12 billion illegally acquired assets. From 2004, it has recovered Sh12.7 billion stolen from the public.
EACC chairman Eliud Wabukala said the commission will do all it can to recover stolen public resources.