26 September 2018

Kenya: EACC Probes 23 Firms Linked to Obado in Sh2.5bn Graft Scandal

Migori County awarded a firm its governor, Mr Okoth Obado, is believed to have used to siphon over Sh2.5 billion a road repair contract four months after the anti-graft watchdog froze its accounts, and informed the devolved unit of ongoing investigations.

Janto Construction was in March awarded a tender to repair the Nyabisawa-Jumbo Road for Sh16.8 million, which the firm completed in July after county officials expressed satisfaction with the works done.

ACCOUNT FROZEN

The county then paid Sh16.8 million into Janto's KCB account, which had been frozen on November 30, 2017 following Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigations into its alleged irregular procurement practices that could have cost taxpayers over Sh2.5 billion.

The EACC has narrowed down to 23 companies it believes Mr Obado used to win several tenders between 2013 and last year, tracing Sh2.3 billion to the suspected conduits.

Detectives have unearthed 32 companies, 77 pieces of land and other assets. In June, Anti-Corruption Court Judge Hedwig Ong'udi extended the freeze order for four months, meaning it lapses on October 21.

MORE DETECTIVES

Justice Ong'udi ordered EACC to increase the number of detectives probing the procurement allegations and complete investigations within the four-month window.

Documents show that Janto received at least Sh141 million through tenders be-tween June 13, 2014 and June 19, 2017.

Mr Obado, who is separately facing murder charges for the alleged killing of 26-year-old Rongo University student Sharon Otieno, is believed to have used the stolen cash to maintain a flashy lifestyle for himself and his family.

Detectives say that through the procurement scam, Mr Obado was able to build a home worth Sh100 million in Uriri in Migori County and send at least Sh13 million to his children.

The EACC has been investigating procurement at Migori County since last September.

BUILDING BURNT

On September 24, just a day before Migori County secretary Christopher Rusana was to furnish the EACC with tender documents to assist with investigations, the building used as a document storage facility burnt down.

EACC now insists that the fire was an arson attack aimed at destroying evidence that would completed the Sh2.5 billion puzzle.

EACC successfully sought bank account freeze orders against Jared Oluoch Kwaga, Ernest Omondi Owino, Joram Opala Otieno, Patroba Ochanda Otieno, Beatrice Akinyi Ogutu, Kennedy Odhiambo Akello, Kennedy Onyango Adongo and Hellen Odhiambo Odie in November.

Mr Kwaga, Mr Ochanda and Mr Opala are brothers. Their mother Penina Auma has since been roped into the probe, as she is a director in a company they own - Kajulu Business.

Their companies -- Janto Construction, Marowa Stores and Mbingo Enterprises are also part of the case and also have their bank accounts and assets frozen.

ARSON ATTACK

At the time of the freeze order, the accounts under probe only had Sh15.9 million.

"It is suspected that the aforementioned was not an unfortunate fire incident but an arson attack calculated to subvert the efforts of the commission to get to the bottom of the allegation of theft of over Sh2.5 billion from Migori County," EACC detective Catherine Ngari says in court papers.

Ms Ogutu and Mr Adongo, however, argue that the fire occurred before EACC got the freeze order and that there is no evidence presented to show that it was an arson attack.

"The allegation that the investigations have been hungered by the razing of a store which kept documents does not hold water as EACC came to this court long after the occurrence. The commission has not presented an iota of suspicion to seek the restriction of my proper-ty for six months," Mr Adongo says.

Some of the firms used in the intricate tender scam are Seletrack Consultants, Mactebac Contractors, Tarchdog Printers and Deltrack ICT Services, which court documents indicate are under Mr Opala's control.

Mr Ochanda is believed to have been in control of Swyfcon Engineering, Joyush Business and Dolphus Business.

Mr Kwaga's wife Christine Akinyi Ochola owns Atinus Services and Dankey Press.

SUSPICIOUS PAYMENTS

Mr Rusana has now been dragged into the probe, after detectives traced suspicious payments to him from the Obado-associated firms, now believed to be kickbacks.

The county secretary received Sh2.2 million from Kajulu Business, which is one of the 32 firms believed to be Mr Obado's proxies. EACC says it will seek assistance from China, Hong Kong and Australia where the suspected firms sent millions of shillings.

The embattled governor sent Sh1.9 million to his daughter Susan at the University of Aberdeen in December 2014 through Mr Kwaga. In August 2016, Mr Obado sent Sh12.2 million to his son Dan Achola Okoth in Sydney, Australia through Mr Opala.

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