14 April 2019

Kenya: 39 Roads Agency Staff Under Probe Over Corruption

The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) is investigating the bank accounts of 39 Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) employees over possible corruption and money laundering, documents in our possession show.

The agency obtained orders on March 25 from the chief magistrate at the Milimani law courts to investigate the accounts of the highways authority staff members suspected to have benefited illegally from their positions. However, the order does not freeze their accounts.

FRAUDULENTLY

"Whereas it has been proved to me on oath that for the purpose of an investigation into the commission of an offence of money laundering and proceeds of crime, an order be and is hereby issued to inspect the books of accounts," the court ordered and went on to name the banks where the accounts are.

A source at ARA said some of the KeNHA employees under probe are suspected to have registered companies in the names of proxies in order to take advantage of the preferential treatment the government has given to women, youth and the disabled to access government tenders.

Among those who are under probe is a top manager in the development department and a senior official in supply chain management. Our source, an employee who spoke in confidence, revealed that most of those in the list are senior engineers and those from the procurement unit.

In his affidavit before the court, an ARA officer who is investigating the case, Corporal Isaac Nakitare, said that the probe follows an anonymous letter that they received in February.

"That on 12th day of February 2019 the Assets Recovery Agency received information from a whistle-blower through an anonymous letter that there was suspected fraud at ... KeNHA involving irregular tender award procedures," he said. The accounts under scrutiny are held in Housing Finance Corporation of Kenya, Barclays Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank, Cooperative Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank.

"That the said bank accounts are suspected to have fraudulently received payments for won tenders at KeNHA without having genuine mandatory requirements and without doing any work," said Cpl Nakitare.

QUESTIONABLE

Some of the employees hold accounts in more than two banks. We could not establish an estimate of how much money the ARA investigator is looking at as this was not indicated in the court documents. The investigator asked the banks to provide him with the account opening documents of the suspects, as well as their bank statements from January 2017 to march 2019.

Furthermore, he will require for scrutiny the cheque or cash deposit slips of the suspects, withdrawal slips as well as their real time gross settlement (RTGS) transfers.

On March 26, KeNHA director general Peter Mundinia wrote to ARA forwarding several documents, among them payslips of tender committee members, tenders adverts and notices for the third and fourth quarter of the 2018/2019 financial years as well as Access to Government Procurement Opportunity (AGPO) certificates for bidders.

One of the staff members, who is under scrutiny but who asked not to be named in this article, said the investigation largely targeted those who may at one time or the other sat on the tender committee.

By examining the bank accounts of the targeted employees vis-à-vis their salaries from KeNHA, the ARA investigator will be seeking to determine whether some of them could have accumulated wealth through questionable means.

Other senior staff under investigation include an assistant director, an engineer involved in the construction of the 500km Isiolo-Moyale highway linking Kenya and Ethiopia, two regional managers, an official in the ICT department, a senior manager working in risk management and business process re-engineering, an official in the public-private partnerships docket and a top officer involved in design and construction.

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