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Big corruption scandal amounts that shocked Kenyans in 2018

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By BRIAN WASUNA
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While Kenyans have almost become accustomed to news that their taxes lined the pockets of some individuals, 2018 was infamous owing to the copious amounts involved, but with twist after some action was taken to bring the perpetrators of the scandals to book.

The appointment of Mr George Kinoti as Director of Criminal Investigations and Mr Noordin Haji as Director of Public Prosecutions breathed a new lease of life in the war on graft, something that saw hundreds of public officials charged in court with the loss of billions between 2014 and 2018.

Among scandals that saw individuals charged, perhaps the second looting spree at the National Youth Service (NYS) takes the cake as it involved the theft of Sh8 billion in a notorious supplies payment hijack scheme now popularly referred to as ‘supplying air.’

This came before justice had been served in an earlier looting scheme that was unearthed in 2015 when Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru was the Devolution and Planning CS and the NYS fell under the ministry before being moved to the Youth and Gender Affairs docket.

So far, 35 people have been charged in connection with the theft and all have denied the accusations.

The list of suspects initially had 51 individuals, but eight have since become prosecution witnesses with others being let off for lack of evidence.

The looting spree thrust a few little-known individuals into the limelight, as they were accused of getting billions meant for businessmen and women who actually supplied goods to the NYS.

The Ngirita family — matriarch Lucy, her daughters Ann and Phyllis, son Jeremiah and daughter-in-law Catherine Mwai — became perhaps the most known as they are believed to have jointly received nearly Sh1 billion from the NYS.

Mr James Thuita Nderitu and Ms Yvonne Wanjiku Ngugi, who own Firstling Supplies Ltd, are believed to have also received Sh1 billion through their firm.

The swoop on suspects saw former NYS director-general Richard Ndubai and ex-Youth and Gender Affairs PS Lillian Omollo charged alongside junior and senior public officials for the loss of taxpayers’ money.

Starting January, the court will hear the NYS cases which have been split into two to enable a speedy conclusion.

Mr Haji holds that the scam saw the charged individuals collude to forge contracts genuinely awarded to several firms, after which the fake documents were used to hurriedly pay ghost suppliers.

KCB has been fined Sh149.5 million, Standard Chartered Bank (Sh77.5 million), Equity Bank (Sh89.5 million), Cooperative Bank (Sh20 million), and DTB (Sh56 million).

Some of the firms flagged during investigations include Firstling Supplies (Sh1.48 billion), Flagstone Merchants (Sh1.03 billion), Fastlane Freight Forwarders (Sh221 million), Techbiz Ltd (Sh767 million, Excella Ltd (Sh282 million), Era Two Thousand Enterprises (Sh273.9 million), Interscope Tech and Services (Sh176 million), Smart Variety Stores (Sh153 million) and Ngiwaco Enterprises (Sh117 million).

Others are Njewanga Enterprises (Sh80 million), Evergreen Enterprises Ltd (Sh70.5 million), Evertec General Trading Company Ltd (Sh68.7 million), Bosqure Systems Limited (Sh59 million), Emaki Ventures (Sh39.3 million), and Ngirispa Enterprises (Sh18 million).

Between June and September, the DPP approved the prosecution of 30 individuals — among them officials of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) — in relation with the alleged import of poisonous sugar, rice and fertiliser which cost taxpayers well over Sh10 billion.

Detectives arrested 20 of the officials in Mombasa and the other 10 in Nairobi. The arrested officials include suspended Kebs managing director Charles Ongwae, KRA verification officers Vivian Moraa, Monica Wacheke, and Stephen Ochieng.

The sugar issue took a shocking turn after it emerged that some MPs received bribes of Sh10,000 to kill a report which pointed at the major players in the importation of the dangerous sweetener.

Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni Wamuchomba in August claimed that some lawmakers insulted her in Parliament for turning down her cut of the bribes, some of which were allegedly dished out in toilets within the National Assembly’s premises.

MPs Ayub Savula (Lugari), Justus Murungu (Matungu) and Jared Okello (Nyando) have since called for the dissolution of Parliament following the bribery allegations.

Interestingly, Mr Savula himself landed in trouble barely a month after spitting fire on a section of his colleagues when he was charged alongside his two wives with the disappearance of Sh2.5 billion from the Government Advertising Agency.

Mr Savula, Ms Melody Gatwiri Ringera and Ms Hellen Jepkorir Kemboi were on October 29 released on a Sh500,000 cash bail each, after denying claims that they jointly stole Sh122.3 million that was meant to be paid to media houses for a number of advertisements.

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They are accused of using seven companies — Sunday Publishers Ltd, Melsav Company Ltd, Johnnewton Communications, Express Media Group, No Burns Protection Agencies Ltd, Cross Continents Ventures Ltd, and Shiledlock Ltd — to defraud the GAA of millions.

Former Broadcasting and Telecommunication PS Sammy Itemere and Mr Dennis Chebitwey were among 13 other individuals charged alongside the Savula households.

Mr Itemeere, Mr Kuko and the others were released on Sh1 million cash bail.

In yet another scandal that rocked the country, former Kenya Power bosses Ken Tarus and Ben Chumo were among 18 individuals at the electricity distributor charged with procurement of defective transformers and irregularities in pre-qualifying 525 companies for labour and transport contracts.

Others charged are corporate affairs and company secretary Beatrice Meso, general manager regional co-ordination Peter Mwichigi, former general manager supply chain John Ombui, his business strategy counterpart Peter Mungai Kinuthia, general managers Joshua Mutua, Samuel Ndirangu, Abubakar Swaleh, Stanely Mutwiri and Benson Muriithi.

The Kenya Power officials have been accused of misappropriating Sh400 million through the faulty transformers deal with Muwa Trading Company.

Labour and transport project engineer John Mwaura, chief accountant James Muriuki and tender committee members Bernard Githui and Ms Evelyn Amondi were also accused of colluding to pay unqualified transport firms Sh159 million.

Muwa Trading Company directors James Njenga Mungai, his wife Grace Wanjira and son, John Anthony Mungai, were also charged with fraudulently obtaining Sh201 million from Kenya Power by supplying faulty transformers.

On August 30, Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe was arrested alongside National Cereals and Produce Board finance general manager Cornel Kiprotich over Sh11 billion irregularly paid out to individuals posing as farmers, at the expense of genuine maize growers.

Other NCPB officials netted in the crackdown were managing director Newton Terer, accounts clerk Caroline Kipchoge Cherono, Eldoret silo manager Renson Kibet Korir, records officer-Eldoret depot Eric Kipketer Talum and county director for agriculture Joseph Kipruto Cheboi.

About 13 traders allegedly colluded with top NCPB managers in a scheme that saw them receive billions irregularly in the 2017-2018 season.

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri last month said that his office expects the arraignment of 62 individuals for the NCPB scam, over which President Kenyatta publicly expressed his anger.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigated 152 traders, and found that 90 were genuinely paid for their services.

The war on graft moved to the health sector in November, with suspended National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) CEO Geoffrey Mwangi and his predecessor Samuel ole Kirgotty charged with the loss of Sh1.88 billion alongside 18 other individuals and a company.

The duo were charged alongside procurement officers and other NHIF officials that approved the hiring of payment service provider JamboPay and later purchase of a system from the same firm for a combined Sh1.88 billion.

Mr Haji insists that the management tender committee members that awarded JamboPay the deal and the evaluation committee colluded to play a bait-and-switch game that saw NHIF hire the system rather than buy it.

After expiry of JamboPay’s three-year contract in 2017, NHIF extended the contract by one year which saw the firm collect over Sh250 million in one year.

NHIF eventually bought the system for Sh495 million through a single-sourcing process that the DPP insists was also illegal.

The NHIF scam suspects were released on cash bails ranging between Sh300,000 and Sh1 million.

Mr Mwangi and NHIF finance director Wilbert Kurgat had two weeks earlier been charged with obstruction of justice after the DPP claimed that they colluded to hide crucial payment vouchers from detectives. In that case, the duo was released on Sh500,000 cash bail.

Mr Mwangi and Mr Kurgat were also suspended by the NHIF.

The NHIF cases resume in January.

Amid several accusations of grand corruption, Kenya Pipeline Company also saw five of its senior officials being arrested.

Managing director Joe Sang, company secretary Gloria Khafafa, Mr Vincent Korir Cheruiyot, Mr Billy Aseka and Mr Nicholas Gitobu were charged with the loss of public funds in the procurement of a Sh1.9 billion oil jetty in Kisumu.

They were released on bond and the case will be mentioned on January 22.

With DPP Haji and DCI Kinoti vowing to bring graft barons to book, 2019 will be a busy year for the courts.

Chief Justice David Maraga is expected to hire more magistrates to deal with the increasing graft cases before courts.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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