Celebrated former Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo on Tuesday started a three-year jail term for abuse of office.
Mr Gakuo, who until last month was being considered as a possible replacement for former Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe – who resigned in January – cut a dejected figure when the court pronounced a guilty verdict.
His co-accused, former Local Government Permanent Secretary Sammy Kirui, former Nairobi City Council legal secretary Mary Ng’ethe and chairman of the tender committee Alexander Musee will also serve a similar sentence.
Mr Kirui and Ms Ng’ethe were found guilty of failing to adhere to procurement laws and giving misleading information to the tender committee.
They were all convicted for their role in the purchase of land meant for a cemetery in Mavoko, Athi River, in 2009.
Besides the three-year jail term for each of the four, Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti ordered Mr Gakuo and Mr Kirui to pay a fine of Sh1 million each, while Ms Ng’ethe will pay Sh52 million and Mr Musee Sh32 million failing which they will serve an additional year in jail.
Mr Ogoti ruled that the four ought to have used their positions to stop the illegal acts but they chose not to, leading to loss of taxpayers’ money.
Ms Ng’ethe and Mr Musee were found guilty of giving a misleading report purporting that the committee had agreed to buy the controversial 120-acre land in Mavoko town. They also used a false valuation report to award the tender.
The court said the former officials ought to have stopped the payment of Sh283,200,000 to Naen Rech Ltd, who received the money for the irregular purchase of the land. It said both were beneficiaries of the illegality and that they received substantial financial benefits from the procurement of the land which was priced above the prevailing market rate.
The land was intended to replace the already full Lang’ata cemetery although it was found unsuitable for use as a burial site. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigated the deal and recommended prosecution.
“All the accused were persons in authority and they acted passively, allowing corruption to take place,” said the magistrate, adding that the law gave them powers to stop payment at any stage.
Mr Gakuo had opted to remain silent when he was put on his defence but his lawyer defended him, saying that once the tender had been awarded, Mr Gakuo had no powers to cancel it.
A witness, the alleged owner of the land, said that he did not sell the property to the city. He also denied signing any contract with the defunct city council.