CORRUPTION PROBE

Garbage tenders: EACC traces Sh20m to Sonko account

Governor's prosecution will plunge county into a crisis as there's no deputy governor

In Summary

• Sonko is alleged to have received Sh20 million through proxies

• Governor has denied all allegations and insisted that he in fact blocked the payments. 

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko at the EACC headquarters on Wednesday, September 3, 2019.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko at the EACC headquarters on Wednesday, September 3, 2019.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko allegedly pocketed up to Sh20 million from a lucrative garbage collection contract that now threatens to end his nine-year political career.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives claim that some of the firms that won the Sh357 million tender wired more than Sh20 million to Sonko’s bank accounts.

However, the money was not paid directly but through proxies and sister companies in what sleuths believe was a calculated move meant to avoid raising suspicions.

 

On Tuesday Sonko was taken through a marathon eight-hour grilling at Integrity Centre, where he recorded 13 different statements. He denied receiving any money and all other allegations, insisting that he was not involved in the procurement process.

Sonko blamed people he did not name in his office for making the payments behind his back.

“I blacklisted the companies and blocked their payments after the Environment committee raised issues,” he added.

The EACC is investigating claims of corruption in the award of the tenders for 2017-18 and 2018-19. At the centre of the alleged bribery claim is one Anthony Otieno Ombok — a director of Yiro Enterprises, one of the firms that received the controversial tender.

Ombok alias Jamal is also said to be a director of another firm known as ROG Security Ltd. 

TENDER AWARD

The EACC is investigating claims of corruption in the award of the tenders for 2017-18 and 2018-19.

At the centre of the alleged bribery claim is one Anthony Otieno Ombok — a director of Yiro Enterprises, one of the firms that received the controversial tender.

According to EACC investigations, after receipt of payment from the Nairobi County Government, some of the firms would wire part of the cash to bank accounts associated with Ombok. He would then send the money to Sonko’s bank accounts.

 

Detectives have established the complex money trail, almost similar to that which was allegedly used by Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu to get cash from the county.

“It’s alleged that the companies that won the garbage collection tenders after receipt of payments from Nairobi City County Government through proxies and sister companies made payments of over Sh20 million to Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko—through his bank accounts,” an EACC document seen by the Star states.

Ombok is set to be questioned this week as the investigation enters the final phase. Companies awarded the garbage collection tender include Hardi Enterprises, Jackoy Enterprises, Flexilease Ltd, Accacia Equipment (K) Ltd and Aende Group Ltd.

However, the probe is also focusing on claims that the tenders were dogged by procurement irregularities and misappropriation of public funds. There are also claims of inflated payments, fraud and conflict of interest.

Since the EACC probe became public, Sonko has presented himself as an innocent governor who is only being sought for the sins committed by his employees.

“I’m not under investigation, but I was summoned as the Chief Executive of the county to come and shed light,” Sonko said on Tuesday after the questioning at Integrity Centre.

“As county boss, I don’t sit in the procurement committee and I’m not the accounting officer but I have the general responsibility for my officers.”

Sonko claimed the questions centred on concerns raised previously by the county Environment committee questioning how some of the companies were awarded tenders without proper qualifications and due process.

I’m not under investigation, but I was summoned as the Chief Executive of the county to come and shed light
Sonko

But it has emerged that the probe threatens to shatter the political career of the first-term governor with a massive following in the city.

If charged, Sonko’s prosecution is likely to plunge Nairobi into a constitutional crisis. He has refused to name a deputy governor almost 21 months after his deputy Polycarp Igathe resigned over their troubled working relationship.

This means Sonko will have no one to hand over to, a precedent that has already been set by the High Court following a landmark decision by Justice Mumbi Ngugi.

Additionally, the Nairobi county assembly has no substantive speaker following the impeachment of Beatrice Elachi.

Waititu and his Samburu counterpart Moses Lenolkulal have been barred from office after Justice Mumbi ruled that county chiefs charged with corruption should stay away from office.

Their roles should be completely taken over by their deputies for the duration of their trials, the ruling stated.

The red flag over the garbage collection tender was first raised by the Nairobi county assembly Public Accounts Committee in July last year.

The watchdog committee revealed that officials at City Hall’s Environment department could not account for more than Sh160 million paid to contracted garbage collectors. This was after it emerged that the county government irregularly paid Sh162 million to 11 companies contracted to collect garbage.

However, officials could not submit payment vouchers made to the companies, the list of the 11 firms and their contractual documents to support the payment.