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December 12, 2018

Victories exist in graft war

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission CEO Halakhe Waqo addresses media outside Integrity Centre./PATRICK VIDIJA
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission CEO Halakhe Waqo addresses media outside Integrity Centre./PATRICK VIDIJA

The recent conclusion of a criminal court case investigated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission concerning the irregular purchase of 120 acres for a public cemetery was a major boost to the war on graft.

The hefty fines amounting to millions of shillings and mandatory jail terms against two accused persons found guilty of fraud send a strong warning to the corrupt. Kenyans have waited eight years for the case to be concluded. With the sentencing of the two individuals, the public is bound to appreciate that being corrupt has dire consequences.

In the judgment delivered by anti-corruption court magistrate Felix Kombo, Boniface Okerosi Misera, a former director of procurement at the Ministry of Local Government and surveyor Cephas Kamande Mwaura will serve two years in prison each and pay Sh40 million and Sh37.2 million respectively. These fines are by no means a small amount.

The cemetery land saga goes back to 2009, when the Nairobi City Council decided to acquire land for a new cemetery in Athi River, Machakos district. Investigations revealed that there were irregularities in the purchase of the land.

This case is one of those recently concluded and judgments issued in favour of the EACC and the prosecution. The judgment indicates that significant progress is being made in the fight against corruption. This conviction is a clear demonstration that the war on corruption is steadily producing results.

The conclusion of the cemetery land case comes after another notable conviction of a senior government official; a chief executive officer of a state corporation. The criminal case instituted in court by the EACC in 2015 against former CEO of Youth Enterprise Development Fund Juma Mwangala Mwatata was concluded and the accused convicted on February 28, 2018.

Mwatata is one of the senior government officials to be charged and convicted of corruption charges. He was fined Sh1 million or one-year imprisonment in default.

Another notable mention in demonstrating the efforts taken by the commission in fighting graft is the successful prosecution of a former director of Kenya Wine Agencies Ltd, Capt (Rtd) Charles Kizito Masinde, who was convicted of corruption and fined Sh500,000.

The latest conviction by the anti-corruption court is against an officer of the Ministry of Education, Samuel Odigo Michira, who was fined Sh964,000 for misappropriating Free Primary Education funds. He was charged in 2011 and his case concluded on March 27, 2018.

The period of trial in the three cases shows that investigating and prosecuting corruption cases take very long and are arduous processes. The complexity and nature of investigations into corruption cases have an impact on the number of cases filed in court and prosecuted. The commission finalised 25 criminal cases, resulting in the conviction of 26 people in the financial year ending June 2017. Only one suspect was acquitted.

Despite the successes, there have been setbacks caused by decisions from magistrate’s courts. The recent acquittal of 23 suspects linked to the National Youth Service scandal by the anti-graft agency demonstrates the war on graft is not smooth sailing.

The suspects earned their freedom after the magistrate’s court ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to convict them. All is not lost, however, because the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against the decision.

Only one suspect in the case was found to have a case to answer and will be put on his defence. Selesio Karanja, a supply chain assistant, is accused of fraudulent practice in procurement.

The war on corruption is a collaborative effort of all the agencies and institutions mandated by the 2010 Constitution to fight the vice.

Waqo is the secretary/CEO, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission

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