The Anti-corruption High Court sitting in Nairobi has certified as urged a petition by three activists over alleged loss of Ksh2 billion public funds at Siaya County government in the last two years for non-existence activities.
Justice Sifuna Nixon directed the lawsuit by activists Peter Agoro, Erick Onyango and Elizabeth Akinyi who are seeking orders to compel the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate four Siaya county chief officers over the alleged theft of public funds be heard on a priority basis.
"The Application dated May 9, 2023, filed under a Certificate of Urgency is certified as urgent. I direct the application shall be canvassed by way of written submissions and the respondents including EACC have 14 days to respond to the lawsuit before June 21, 2023," Justice Sifuna stated.
In the case, the petitioners want the anti-graft body compelled to immediately commence investigation against the four senior officials over misappropriation of funds amounting to billions of shillings for non-existence activities.
Those the activists want investigated are Jack Odinga (Acting Chief Officer Finance), Geoffrey Ochieng (Acting head of Treasury), Job Kingsley Amoth Otieno (Departmental Accountant-Imprest) and Hezron Junior Opiyo (Departmental Accountant-Imprest) over alleged breach of Public Finance Management Act.
"An order compelling the EACC to commence investigations into the activities of the respondents and officers serving under them and Institute criminal and civil proceedings against them," the petitioners seek.
The activists claim that some of the officials were retained by Governor James Orengo yet an Internal audit conducted by former Auditor General Edward Ouko unmasked massive irregularities and plunder of county coffers.
Citing an audit from the Auditor General of the county government, the petitioners state that the same reveals the multiple uncounted earnings and payments totalling hundreds of millions contributed by Kenyan workers.
"In the audit from the Auditor General shows unsupported domestic travel and substance allowances through imprest accounts payments for specialized material including Ksh350million through inter-account but for which no supporting documents were availed for audit verification," the court papers state.
Further, the audit also shows that Ksh6,094,351 was paid through Siaya County referral Hospital but no accountability statement was availed.
According to the petitioners, the audit report also flagged anomalies where over Ksh100 million was transferred to Imprest account and withdrawn in cash.
They argue that the senior officials hold trust on behalf of Siaya County residents and employees and hence prudent utilization, efficiency and transparency are paramount.
"That the rampant theft include the payroll theft in Ksh5.4 million and Ksh2 million in December and March respectively, the irregular withdrawal of Ksh 13 million from Universal Health Services Account in July 2022; the Ksh 18 million theft of public money through petty cash during assumption of office, the Ksh 6.5millon Kenya Urban Support Programme in Agriculture," the petitions states.
Further, they claim that the procurement of maize seeds and fertilizer was riddled with corruption.
"As per the internal Audit report is that Ouko taskforce Report of January 2023, Ksh2 billion was lost within the last two years," the petition reads in part.
The activists further reveal that the county Imprest account held at Equity Bank Siaya was used to plunder and pilfer county government money.
"Huge and multiple withdrawals every two to three days circumventing IFMIS safeguards," the petitioners say.
It is their argument that the money transferred to Imprest account and withdrawn in cash were not authorized by the controller of budget office which is contrary to the constitution as enriched in Article 228(5).
"Over Ksh 100 million was withdrawn through imprest in the months of November 2022 and January 2023 (in just three months) imprest for petty cash and emergencies. Why would the cashier withdraw Ksh 950,000 five or six times every other day?" Poses the Petitioners
"Ochieng who served as the Director Finance at the county from January 2022 to July 2022, the period of the time within which most of the cases of cash withdrawal were done and he was the one who authorized and therefore the main man in the Ksh 400 million scandal, " the activists states.
They further accused Ochieng of authorizing the withdrawal of funds from the county Imprest account for non-existing training of staff and Imprest sent the cash to individual officers' bank accounts.
Ochieng who is the acting head of Treasury, Siaya county government under Governor James Orengo administration is on the spot for Ksh600 million scandal.
The court papers including the audit report further reveal that Ksh 381,665,358 was withdrawn from the county government for domestic travel and substance allowances but the beneficially could not be tracked.
"Funds are transferred from current to Imprest account at that point rather than after payment from the Imprest account. It is not clear, and management has not explained, how and why such huge expenditure totalling to Ksh1,075,025,345 were incurred through the imprest account. In addition, the propriety of the expenditures cannot be ascertained, " the audit report filed in court states.
The petitioners want the Anti-graft watchdog to institute investigations into other nine staff working in the finance department of Siaya County government for being used as conduit to transact cash.
They include Lina Okello, Judith Okuta, Noel Okwisa Nancy Obuya, Elizabeth Siambe, Bernard Asir, Irene Sewe, Christine Hasuwo and Paul Oyier.
"The money was transferred to their accounts instructed to withdraw then hand over the cash to one Dennis Simiyu or Maurice Owira," the court papers state.
The court papers further show that in the period of July 1 and September 30, 2022, a total of Ksh25,167,233 were transferred to junior staff's personal accounts, withdrawn and surrendered to the agents of the Chief Officer, finance.
Jack Odinga on his part is accused that between July last year and March 2023, he has withdrawn Sh 250 million through imprest and using employees, ostensibly to finance government miscellaneous operations.
Further, Odinga is accused of misappropriation of funds during the assumption of office last year.
"The assumption of office committee withdrew Ksh22 million and officially spent Ksh 3.9 million that was handed over to governance department. The balance of the money (Ksh17 million) was misappropriated under Odinga's watch," the court papers state.