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January 20, 2019

Staff union officials wanted Sh1m bribe to stop strike, Sonko claims

Governor Mike Sonko in a Milimani court, Nairobi, yesterday /GPS
Governor Mike Sonko in a Milimani court, Nairobi, yesterday /GPS

Nairobi governor Mike Sonko yesterday testified in a graft case in which two officials of the Kenya County Government Workers Union are charged with demanding Sh200,000 bribe from him.

KCGWU Nairobi branch chairman Benson Oliang’a and assistant treasurer John Muriuki are charged with soliciting the bribe to stop an impending strike in October last year.

They allegedly sought the cash through Sonko’s aide Joab Ogola. EACC officials arrested them last year at an unnamed hotel in the city.

During this time, more than 13, 000 county workers had threatened to call for an industrial action over delayed pay.

 Sonko is one of the prosecution witnesses. He told chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti of the Anti-Corruption Court that the two had demanded Sh1 million to suspend the strike, as the negotiations went on, and later reduced it to Sh200,000.

“I sent one of my assistants [Ogola] to meet them at their office after I received a letter from the union. He came back and reported to me that they were demanding Sh1 million to call off the strike as we continue with negotiations,” he said. 

“I told him I was consulting but I was buying time as I engaged the institution [EACC] mandated with fighting bribery.”

Sonko said he later sent Ogola to Integrity Centre to report Oliang’a and Muriuki’s demands. 

Ogola was fitted with audio and video recording gadgets to capture the bribe negotiations that helped the detectives to gather evidence against the two.

During cross-examination, Sonko said he sent his personal assistant, not an employee of the county, because “at the time, City Hall was full of corruption cartels and I could not trust anyone”. He said he was new at the office and could only work with personal staff as he did not have a cabinet. 

No more delayed salaries

The defence lawyer had sought to know why the governor overlooked the county secretary, chief officers and human resource department officials to negotiate, instead of sending Ogola, who was not a county employee at the time.

“I had no issues with the workers or their officials because I understood they had constitutional rights to demand their delayed salaries and go on strike. My problem was the demands,” the city boss said.

“Since I took office, I’ve never had delayed salaries. Yesterday, I disbursed Sh1.1 billion for salaries and statutory payments.”

Last year, the staff union dismissed the claims and accused the governor of intimidating its officials who fight for workers’ rights.

“The governor called Oliang’a for a meeting, but he refused to go because he was called alone,” secretary general Roba Duba had said.

“Today, he told Oliang’a and Muriuki to meet his personal assistant in a hotel.”

Dubai said the the aide gave the officials lunch and “it was at that time that they were arrested”.

He said Sonko was setting people up and had promised to finish Oliang’a. He accused him of intimidation.

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