NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 2 – Former National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) Chief Executive Officer Richard Kerich has denied charges of conspiring with Meridian Medical Centre Limited to defraud the fund of Sh116,935,500.
Kerich who was arraigned together with five others accused, also pleaded, “not true” to the charges of failing to comply with procurement laws and abuse of office.
Also listed on the charge sheet is Meridian Medical Centre Limited.
The former NHIF chief executive was charged alongside the Fund’s former Manager of Strategy and Corporate planning Marwa Chacha on all three counts and he too took a not guilty plea.
David Chingi who was the Assistant NHIF Manager of Benefits and Quality Assurance only took plea on the conspiracy and abuse of office charges, to all of which he plead not guilty.
Meridian Directors Peter Wambugu and Ndiba Wairioko took the same plea to the conspiracy charge and the additional charge of, “obtaining money by false pretences.”
Acting Chief Magistrate Doreen Mulekyo released the six accused on a surety bond of Sh5 million or an alternative cash bail of Sh2 million each.
Kerich and Chacha however came very close to spending seven days behind bars for laughing, “heartily” as Mulekyo put it, after she’d ordered their release upon posting bail.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko did not consider any of the accused a flight risk and his officers therefore did not contest their release but asked that the bail or bond be set high.
Between January 27 and 31 the DPP intends to call 40 witnesses to testify against the accused.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) having, “carefully conducted thorough investigations into several clinics and patients that were purported to have benefited from the funds and found the suspects culpable,” EACC Vice-Chair Irene Keino stated on Tuesday.
The hearing will be a culmination of investigations that began last year after it emerged that the Fund contracted an ill-equipped Meridian to provide health services under the Civil Servants and Disciplined Services Medical Scheme.
The court will also hear arguments on the tendering process itself with Kerich and Chacha being accused of “wilfully failing to comply with the law relating to Public Procurement and Disposal Act by not using the open tendering method.”
The case will come up for mention again on October 16.