Where is the money? EACC queries use of Sh4 million for Taita Taveta three day event

Governor Andrew Mwadime (centre), Assistant High Commissioner of India Sandeep Sharma (right) and Gender and Culture Executive Shedrack Mutungi during the opening of the WW1 commemoration event in Voi, Taita Taveta County last November. Governor Mwadime has suspended four senior county officials over alleged financial irregularities during the event.

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

It was a day to remember the important role Taita Taveta county played during World War 1 because it was one of the scenes of clashes between the British and Germans in the region. 

From world war memorials and battlefields, bunkers and trenches still visible, this was an opportune moment for Taita Taveta to market itself globally to consolidate its place in history as one of the war’s battlefronts.

But it is emerging that some county officials could have taken advantage of the celebrations to mark the 104th anniversary of the end of WWI to line their pockets with Sh4 million of public funds.

The three-day event that took place last November is now at the centre of investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over questionable spending. 

It has emerged some of the financial documents used to account for the spending of the funds were forged and falsified to enable theft of the money.

Among the documents that were given to investigators was the approved budget for the financial year 2022/2023, the approved procurement plan for the financial year 2022/2023, all the approved requisitions and work plans for the event, all imprest vouchers regarding the event, payment surrender vouchers and other supporting documents in respect to the event.

The other documents provided by the county government were payment vouchers and related supporting documentation for the event, an approved list of prequalified suppliers for the financial year 2022/2023, procurement documents concerning the firms that provided services including Real Time Group and Richtec Technology and bank account statement for the county for the period of the event. 

Also, the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) extracts supporting the payments and bank account details of the officers to which the imprest was paid were provided. 

The revelation that funds were misappropriated aggravated pressure, forcing Governor Andrew Mwadime to suspend the four officials pending investigations. 

On Wednesday, Mr Mwadime was questioned by the EACC over the Sh4 million World War One commemoration scandal. 

Nation established that Mr Mwadime was summoned to shed light on the scandal where some of his county officials were mentioned to have misappropriated part of the budget during the event in November last year. 

The governor spent the better part of Tuesday morning at Integrity House in Nairobi where he was questioned by EACC detectives who sought to understand what role he played in the scandal. 

Detectives are also planning to summon more people, including other officers that were adversely mentioned regarding the suspected fraudulent transactions. 

The commission's head of Corporate Affairs and Communication, Mr Erick Ngumbi, said the governor recorded a statement.

"This case is one of the various matters relating to the Taita Taveta County government that are under active investigations by the commission. The outcome of the investigation will inform various enforcement actions in accordance with the law," Mr Ngumbi said.

This comes a month after EACC collected crucial documents detailing how transactions took place during the four-day event. 

Speaking to residents last week, Mr Mwadime asked residents to be patient as the agency conducts its investigations.  

The governor said his administration would take the necessary action on those who would be found culpable.  

"My stand remains the same, my administration will not tolerate corruption. That is why I asked them to step aside to give EACC a chance to investigate the allegations," he said.  

However, the governor said despite the allegations, the WW1 event has brought many goodies to the county.  

He said some of the countries that participated in the commemoration have committed to implementing projects in the county. 

"I cannot mention the projects now, but very soon you will witness what we have achieved," he said. 

However, some civil society organisations have questioned the move by EACC to drop corruption allegations against some former county employees. 

Six employees who worked under former Governor Granton Samboja were allegedly let off the hook over various corruption allegations.  
CCOs under the Operation Linda Ugatuzi campaign said they will march to the EACC offices to protest the move that they said has made the residents lose faith in the commission. 

Speaking in Voi, Operation Linda Ugatuzi leader Fred Ogola said they are planning to hold protests in Nairobi to demand answers from the commission.  

"It is unfortunate that despite the glaring evidence, the anti-corruption commission says they will not investigate the officers. Instead, they want us to furnish them with evidence," Mr Ogola said. 

“The agency has a budget to cater for that purpose. Why are they asking us to give them more information when our work was to whistle blow and leave the rest to them?" he wondered. 

Taita Taveta Civil Society Movement chairperson Abedi Malusha asked Mr Mwadime to use internal systems to net corrupt dealings in the county government. 

 "We are thinking of using other options to make progress. EACC has turned out to be a thorn in the flesh for residents since no corruption case raised in the county has seen the light of the day," he said.