Bomas of Kenya CEO fights suspension over graft

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 10 Apr, 2024 07:45 | 3 mins read
Bomas of Kenya
Inside Bomas of Kenya. PHOTO/@Bomasofkenya/X

The Employment and Labour Relations Court is set to issue a ruling on a petition filed by Bomas of Kenya CEO Peter Gitaa Koria fighting his suspension on April 18, 2024.

Gitaa is among 74 public officials suspended in November 2023 over graft accusations following recommendations by the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC). Head of Public Service Felix Koskei ordered the suspensions.

"The commission conducted investigations into allegations of procurement irregularities in the award of a tender for the supply of cutlery awarded to various companies where the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Peter Gitaa Koria, has been adversely mentioned. The CEO, being the accounting officer of the agency, oversaw the execution of the contract. Accordingly, there is a likelihood that his continued being in the office will interfere with the smooth provision of documents and facilitation of persons who might be called upon as witnesses by the commission," EACC said in a letter to Public Service Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa on November 10, 2023.

According to an affidavit filed in court, Gitaa says that the suspension was marred with illegalities and procedural irregularities which contravene his constitutional rights to equality before the law, fair administrative action and fair trial.

"The suspension emanates from the office of Ethic and Anticorruption Commission, who vide a letter dated 10th November 2023 had made the recommendation for my suspension as the CEO Bomas of Kenya, for a period of 12 months so as to allow investigations to be carried out," Gitaa says in his affidavit.

"My suspension is marred with illegalities and procedural irregularities and thus constitutes a direct contravention of my constitutional rights to equality before the law, fair administrative action and fair trial."

In its replying affidavit sworn by one of its investigators, EACC informed the court that the Bomas CEO is under investigation for procurement fraud leading to a loss of Ksh8.2 million. EACC is also probing allegations of double salary payments from public coffers against him.

"The Commission received a report that during the Financial Year 2020/2021 Mr Peter Koria Gitaa the Chief Executive Officer at Bomas of Kenya was involved in procurement irregularities in the award of a tender for the supply of cutlery to various companies amounting to a loss of Ksh8,251,255.53 without following the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015," EACC stated in court papers.

Bomas of Kenya tenders

In one of the accusations, the CEO is said to have overseen fraudulent tender awards in which he later received kickbacks through mobile money.

In one of the tenders, Bomas of Kenya issued a restricted tender for cutlery without a prior approved budget. In a different tender entailing the purchase of kitchen items, court documents show that the procurement process started after the goods were delivered.

EACC says revoking the suspension of the Bomas of Kenya CEO would erode the principles of public Interest, good governance and accountability.

"I believe that lifting of the petitioner's suspension as prayed when he is facing investigations of the magnitude described herein-above would not enhance constitutional values. Additionally, the principles of public Interest, good governance and accountability militate against lifting the petitioner's suspension to safeguard the integrity of investigations," the EACC officer investigating Bomas of Kenya CEO says in court documents.

In a similar case, EACC has moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge a judgement revoking the suspension of Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) General Manager of Design and Construction Eng Anthony Wamukota.

EACC says the judgment by the Employment and Labour Relations Court could have far-reaching implications in the ongoing efforts to combat corruption in the country.

Wamukota had moved to court opposing the directive, with the court ruling in his favour.

In its judgement delivered on Monday, April 8, 2024, Justice Byram Ongaya revoked the suspension of the KETRACO official and ordered that he be immediately reinstated back to office and paid all his outstanding salaries and benefits.

"The 1st respondent is hereby directed to unconditionally revoke the suspension of the petitioner from employment and order for his immediate reinstatement or resumption of duty. The 1st respondent is hereby directed to pay the petitioner any pending salaries, allowances and benefits accrued to him while on the impugned suspension. The order hereby issued revoking the letter dated 15th November 2023 suspending the petitioner herein," Justice Ongaya ruled.

EACC says that allowing any of the suspended CEOs and other senior officials back to office could compromise the ongoing investigations into serious economic crimes involving the loss of billions of public funds and adversely affect efforts to prevent theft of public funds.

Four more similar cases are pending in court.

EACC says the judgement in the KETRACO case may set an adverse precedent that could make it difficult to investigate top officials while they remain in office since they are custodians of crucial documents required for investigations and also supervise potential witnesses in graft cases.

 Other suspended officials include Tanathi Water Works Development Agency CEO Eng Fredrick Mwamati, Director General of National Industrial Training Authority Stephen Ogenga and Acting Director-General of National Museums of Kenya Stanvas Ong’alo.

Others include Huduma Centre Secretariat CEO Benjamin Kai Chilumo, Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) accountant Esther Wanjiru Chege and 67 police officers.