NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 7 – The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji has approved the trial of 27 officials of the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) and a Chinese contractor over the inflation of the cost of a mall in Kisumu.
According to the public prosecutor, the cost of the mall was inflated from an initial figure of Sh2.5 billion to Sh4.1 billion in violation of procurement statutes and contrary to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act.
Following the finalization of the probe conducted by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Haji Friday evening ordered the arrest and prosecution of former LBDA Managing Director Peter Aguko Abok, Kisumu County Assembly Speaker Onyango Oloo (former LBDA Chairperson) among other officials who were board members of the agency when the procurement was conducted.
Abok is accused unprocedurally approving additional works to the tune of Sh 1.3 billion in December 2014 in addition to the Sh2.5 billion that he had already committed in April 2013.
Abok and Oloo are said to have signed a Deed of Variation in February 2015, varying the cost of the construction of the mall from Sh2.5 billion to Sh3.8 billion, stretching the difference by 57 percent which is above the 25 per cent allowable variance Public Procurement and Disposal Act.
The two also executed charges on a parcel of land belonging to LBDA for Sh2.5 billion from the Cooperative Bank in March 2014, January 2015 and May 2015 without the approval of the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works, and the National Treasury.
Bobasi MP Innocent Obiri, and Erdemann Property Limited Director Zhang Jing were arrested by EACC detectives on Friday in relation to the alleged fraud.
Erdemann Property Limited is said to have bribed Oloo with Sh17 million.
Also facing arrest and prosecution are LBDA Evaluation Committee members – Anthony Kisaka (CEO), Nelson Onyango (Production Technologist), Henry Odindo (Quantity Surveyor, Quantech Consultancy), Emmanuel Milikau (Architect, Symbion Kenya Limited) and Moses Wekesa (Consultant, Symbion Kenya Limited).
According to Haji, the Evaluation Committee in March 2014 irregularly recommended to the Tender Committee, the award of the tender to Erdemann Property Limited, a firm that had been found to be nonresponsive during the evaluation process as were two other entities which also submitted bids.
LBDA Tender Committee members Onyango Chere (Chief Finance Officer), Godfrey Mwangi (Manager Technical Service and Operations), Albert Omondi (Internal Auditor, Teresia Ochaka (Supplies Officer) and Amelia Atieno (Legal Officer) will also be prosecuted.
Other LBDA officials facing arrest are George Odawa, Anthony Kogo, David Oyosi, John Mango, John Collins Onyango, Boniface Simba and William Omoding, Jimmy Nabwera, Alex Mukabwa, Mary Goima, Kennedy Musembe, Michael Obora, Joash Odhiambo, Dennis Mulaa and Josiah Okumu, all of whom are board members of the State agency.
Odawa is said to have received a Sh12 million bribe to allow the variation of the contract.
Erdemann Property Limited Director Jing will face prosecution alongside MP Momanyi, Oscar Odhiambo (Director, Symbion Kenya Limited), Lydia Owino (Director, Faradon Associates Limited) her co-director Vincent Ogenge, and the corporate entity – Erdemann Property.
Symbion Kenya Limited in April 2019 and issued a completion certificate for the LBDA Mall with Quantech Consultancy issuing a final account of Sh4.1 billion and amount the DPP said was above the figure indicated in the Deed of Variation.
The indicted individuals are facing a total of 11 charges including conspiracy to defraud, willful failure to comply with procurement law, abuse of office, failure to disclose private interest among others.
The approval of charged against LBDA officials came against the backdrop of sustained pressure by the State entity which has repeatedly accused the EACC of witch-hunt and unduly delaying the occupation of its mall with endless investigations.
The current LBDA Board Chairperson Odoyo Owidi on July 9 blamed the slow uptake of spaces at the mall to bad publicity occasioned by graft investigation.
“How can an investigation take six years, and nobody goes to court?” he asked during a media briefing convened by LBDA board members.
“In and around this region, there are many other agencies that have spent billions of government money, they have nothing to show for it, yet LBDA has been under constant investigations, statement writing and office raids since 2013,” Owidi added.
The media briefing followed a raid on the homes of both current and former board members. Detectives carted off with a horde of documents they said would aide in investigations.
In his statement on Friday, Haji said he received the inquiry file on the LBDA Mall on July 1, 2019 which he later referred to EACC on August 1, 2019 with instructions for further investigations.
EACC resubmitted the file on August 29, the public prosecutor said.