Migori governor Okoth Obado is on the spot for the third week running after it emerged yesterday that detectives are pursuing what is believed to be suspicious transfers of county funds to his children abroad.
The Star has also established that asset recovery agencies have frozen the bank accounts of Obado’s wife, Hellen Adhiambo Odie, five businessmen and three companies believed to be proxies or associated with the county boss.
In documents filed in court, EACC says major Migori county suppliers who are alleged to be Obado’s proxies made huge international transfers to, among others, Obado’s children in Australia, Hong Kong and China.
The proxies known to each other registered many companies that have been awarded what EACC terms as “inflated and fictitious contracts”.
Over Sh2.5 billion has been paid out to the dubious companies over the last five years.
“The preliminary investigations have raised reasonable suspicion that the embezzled public funds have been used by the governor, his wife and the said close proxies, the respondents herein, to accumulate property and illicit wealth,” EACC said.
Those named as the governor’s associates who have benefited from the alleged fraudulent deals and whose accounts have been frozen include Jared Peter Odoyo Oluoch Kwaga, Ernest Omondi Owino and Joram Opala Otieno.
Others are Patroba Ochanda Otieno, Beatrice Akinyi Ogutu, Kennedy Odhiambo Akello and Kennedy Onyango Adongo.
Opala, Kwaga, and Ochanda are blood brothers.
In the 2015-2016 financial year, for instance, the companies owned by the suspects were awarded tenders worth Sh239.7 million.
The probe is another nightmare that Obado and family have been grappling with besides the gruesome murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno.
Obado and his wife are among persons of interest that detectives are investigating in connection with the murder of the governor’s lover, Sharon.
The EACC is now considering seeking mutual legal assistance from the three countries to recover the cash according to court documents.
In the applications seeking to extend the freeze, the anti-corruption agency says it may apply for mutual legal assistance as provided under chapter 75a of the Laws of Kenya following discoveries of international money transfers to his children and others in Australia, Hong Kong and China.
Part of the cash paid to Kwaga was wired to the accounts of Scarlet Susan Okoth and Acholla Okoth.
“It is confirmed that Scarlet Susan is daughter of Zachariah Okoth Obado, the Migori county governor,” EACC stated.
EACC forensic investigator Ann Murigih said they have discovered an intricate web of bank transactions involving over 100 bank accounts. Murigih said they will record statements from various banks employees.
It has emerged that EACC discretely got a six-months freeze of six banks accounts and preservation of a massive 37 parcels of land on December 1, 2017.
Most parcels of land are situated in Migori town.
But the preservation order was again extended on June 21, 2018, for a further four months.
EACC raided the home of suspects and retrieved sale agreements and title deeds of additional 40 parcels of land, bringing to 77 pieces of land whose acquisition is questionable.
Judge Ong’udi described the immoveable properties under investigation as “quite enormous”.
The anti-graft agency has also obtained bank details and statements of over 30 additional bank accounts, motor vehicle ownership documents; Local Supply Orders of more than Sh200 million and payment vouchers of more than Sh45 million.
EACC is now demanding an explanation on the sources of the monies in the bank accounts and the land parcels.
“The EACC intends to file a suit for recovery of assets under section 55 of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act after the investigations,” Judge Ong’udi said in granting the extension.
An affidavit by EACC investigator Pius Maithya described how Kwaga transferred huge sums of money from his Co-operative Bank accounts to several accounts in China and Hong Kong on August 21, 2014, October 23, 2015, November 18, 2015 and August 23, 2016.
Kwaga is among Migori suppliers whose properties were preserved pending completion of investigations.
Other accounts frozen are for Janto Construction Limited (Sh4,000,317), Marowa Stores (Sh1,711,134) and Mbigo Enterprises (Sh2,067,058).
Also frozen are the accounts of Hellen Obado at Equity Bank, Awendo branch, which has Sh784,451 and an account identified as Kuku Ni Pesa, Equity Bank, Migori Branch with Sh700,660.
Owino is a director of two firms under probe, Janto Construction and Mbigu Enterprises.
When EACC searched his accounts in August last year, Owino had a cool Sh5.3 million in the bank.
Detectives have also established that the contractors are surrogates and share cash paid by the Migori county government.
“There was a trend whereby, in each of these companies, upon receipt of funds from Migori county transferred monies to Jared Peter Odoyo Oluoch Kwaga who in-turn transferred to Earnest Omondi Owino and also Joram Opala,” EACC told the High Court.
Mbingo Enterprises Ltd has been paid more than Sh700 million for several contracts.
EACC says Mbingo Enterprises constructed Obado’s palatial home in Uriri constituency but could not find records indicating that the governor paid the contractor.
EACC says part of the reason they are yet to nail any suspects is because the Migori government initially refused to avail critical documents then the county offices mysteriously caught fire.
The agency says the incident is suspicious and could have been a tactical move to wipe out evidence.
“When he [Migori county secretary] finally complied, it was just a few documents that were availed on 25 September 2017. Come 26 September 2017 the Migori county offices which stored various documents including what was being sought were razed down by a fire. It cannot be denied that this had a negative impact on the investigations,” Justice Ongudi said.
Despite the ongoing probe, Mbigo again got two lucrative contracts worth Sh16.8 million as recently as April this year. After completion of work, county officials wired the money to the firm’s frozen account.
The money becomes part of the millions that the troubled firm cannot access.
The firm, through its director Ernest Omondi, is now seeking High Court orders to be allowed to access the latest deposit.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
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.
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.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
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
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
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.
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.
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.