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MP Savula and ex-PS Itemere charged with corruption over GAA funds

Savula and Itemere were arrested at the weekend. Photo/CFM.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 29 – Lugari lawmaker Ayub Savula and former Principal Secretary Sammy Itemere were on Monday charged alongside 16 others, for conspiring to defraud the government Sh 122.3 million.

Itemere was the PS at the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) when the fraud was committed.

Also in court was Dennis Chebitwey, who was heading the Government Advertising Agency (GAA) when the funds were fraudulently paid out to fictitious companies which were listed as having provided services to various government departments.

Seven of the companies—owned by Savula and his two wives Melody Gatwiri Ringera and Hellen Jepkorir Kemboi were also listed on the charge sheet.

Five of the accused persons did not turn up in court and arrest warrants have been issued by Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi.

The 18, who were present in court, denied the charges and were freed on varied bond terms.

18 accused persons were present in court on Monday. Photo/CFM.

Savula was granted a Sh 1 million surety bond with an alternative of Sh 500,000 cash bail after he denied conspiring to defraud the government Sh 122.3 million.

Charges facing him include making a false document with an intention to irregularly acquire the sum from the State Department for Broadcasting and Telecommunications.

Savula, who pleaded on behalf of seven entities in whose accounts the funds were deposited, was further ordered to deposit Sh 500,000 million in cash bail in respect to each of the companies for which he denied fraud charges.

Itemere and Chebitwey were ordered to execute a Sh 2 million surety bond with an alternative of a Sh 1 million cash bail.

Similar terms were extended to the other 18 suspects with the court ordering five accused persons who failed to attend the proceedings on Monday and prior summonses by investigators to report to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) at 7 am on Tuesday.

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The matter is set to come up for mention on November 14 with the pretrial hearing scheduled for December 6.

Savula and eighteen others who appeared in court on Monday were arrested over the weekend by detectives from the after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Noordin Haji, approved legal action against them.

Savula and his two wives – Melody and Hellen– are listed as directors of Sunday Publishers Limited, Melsav Company Limited, Johnnewton Communications, Express Media Group, No Burns Protection Agencies Limited, Cross Continents Ventures Limited, and Shiledlock Limited, entities which are said to have received the Sh 122.3 million irregularly.

Melody Gatwiri Ringera (right) and Hellen Jepkorir Kemboi (left), are Savula’s wives and are listed as directors in the seven companies. Photo/CFM.

The arraignment of Savula, Itemere, Chebitwey and other co-conspirators in court on Monday was a culmination of a probe ordered by the DPP on August 8 following an editorial published by the Daily Nation on August 7, in which the paper demanded for action against GAA for failing to honour a Sh 2.5 billion debt to various media houses.

The debt is said to have been accumulated by the agency as it procured advertising services from various media houses.

“The DPP should also direct investigations into the conduct of the accounting officer of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the GAA for the chaotic manner in which they have procured services from the media, the failure to honour contracts and the piling up of a debt of Sh2.5 billion, not only damaging taxpaying and law-abiding businesses but also destroying the credibility of government as a creditworthy partner,” Daily Nation demanded.

The government has in the past defended the creation of GAA as a cost-cutting measure that had drastically reduced government spending on advertising and procurement of media-related services.

Fatma Hirsi who succeeded Itemere in the State Department for Broadcasting and Telecommunications recently reported savings of up to Sh 5 billion in just a year.

Speaking at a media forum on September 17 Hirsi said spending on advertising had reduced to Sh 2 billion annually compared to an average of 7 billion in previous years.

“We need to tighten our belt around money issues and if we want to manage our resource we need to also manage advertising which is a huge spend. We go to the media for advertising but we also have to save the taxpayer’s money too,” she said.

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