EACC questions workers in Sh1.4bn fraud probe

Siaya Governor James Orengo. He said the report of the taskforce to establish the extent of rot in the devolved unit is ready.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group.

Dozens of county government workers are in the cross-hairs of the anti-corruption agency over the possible theft of billions of shillings of public funds.

The Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) yesterday said more than 60 employees have recorded statements in investigations into the possible misappropriation of over Sh1.4 billion, dating back to the previous administration.

This comes as the report of a special audit by a task force constituted by Governor James Orengo two months ago is said to be complete.

The Nation has confirmed that the team, whose mandate was to carry out a forensic audit of the financial operations of the county government over the last two financial years, has concluded its work.

“I was with the chairman earlier today and he confirmed that the work is finished and what is being done at the moment is writing of the report. The task force has retreated and I will be meeting them in a few days so that I can be given the final brief,”said Mr Orengo.

He added: “We will be releasing the report in the coming days. It will be a big thing.”

On the EACC probe, the agency’s Western Kenya Regional Coordinator George Oira told the Nation that more than 60 public officers were under investigation.

“We are conducting numerous bank account searches and analysing voluminous payment documents. To have a solid case, we have to go through the documents thoroughly, follow the money, find out who actually took what and whose names were used to siphon funds,” he said.

Some residents have however poked holes into the investigations by EACC and the task force.

Mr Chris Owala, Director of Community Initiative Action Group-Kenya said that While Mr Orengo’s intention was good and sincere, the process fell short of expectations because of task force’s composition.

“The membership of the task force should have been purely outside the government and not those who were part of the previous administration and might have been part of the rot. Their presence could provide an avenue of doctoring the report to shield themselves or culprits,” said Mr Owala. He added that the exercise should have been more participatory, involving the public more as well as government agencies such as the Kenya National Audit Office and the Office of the Auditor-General.

“The Siaya County Government must come out of the boardroom and listen to what the citizens want. This process required a bigger team divided into smaller ones handling the various objectives laid down. He could have gone the public inquiry approach,” said Mr Owala.

The human rights and governance expert asked Mr Orengo to stick to the promises he made so that he doesn’t attract rebellion from the public.

Mr Orengo has previously said that he inherited a “rotten” financial department that oversaw the misappropriation of more than Sh1.4 billion. The governor overhauled the department, including suspending some officers, transferring 10 departmental accountants and procurement officers. He also temporarily stopped some payments.

The Nation spotlighted senior county administration officials over unexplained expenditures of about Sh406 million transacted within 12 days before the August elections.

In the questionable withdrawals, a whistle-blower revealed how Siaya MCAs gave themselves sitting allowances and per diems through the assembly’s General Oversight Committee in disregard of the law.

The county government is on the EACC radar over alleged misappropriation of Sh600 million by officials in the previous administration and allegations of abuse of office and fraudulent acquisition of public funds amounting to Sh72 million in the installation of an intensive care unit at the county referral hospital.

There are also allegations of fraudulent acquisition of Sh400 million meant for the construction of a stadium.


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