Henry Rotich dams case: Magistrate expresses frustration with prosecution

Anti-Corruption Chief Magistrate Eunice Nyutu.

Anti-Corruption Chief Magistrate Eunice Nyutu.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A magistrate has taken issue with the manner in which officers from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) are conducting the Sh63 billion Arror and Kimwarer dams’ case against former Finance Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and eight others.

Anti-Corruption Chief Magistrate Eunice Nyutu says "faceless officers" in the country's prosecution office have thrown the case into a quagmire.

While declining to adjourn the case on Monday, Ms Nyutu took issue with the instructions being given to the two state prosecutors – Geoffrey Obiri and Oliver Mureithi – over the case.

Ms Nyutu said the hearing dates were blocked last year and she cannot take up new matters since her diary shows she is hearing this particular case.

Nyutu noted that senior officers in the ODPP have been asking the two prosecutors to seek an adjournment pending the swearing-in of the new DPP Renson Ingonga. Mr Ingonga was on Monday sworn in as DPP at State House.

The magistrate further questioned why the senior officers giving those instructions do not want to commit themselves in writing a formal letter to the court.

"It is now three weeks and these faceless officers have been given you (Obiri and Mureithi) oral instructions to secure an adjournment of this matter awaiting the assumption to the office of Ingonga," Nyutu noted.

She then directed Prosecutor Obiri to present witnesses lined up to testify in the case, to prevent wastage of judicial time.

“The plea to have this case adjourned is hindering the way l work. I am employed and I must be productive. These requests to suspend the trial hinder my work. I need to be accountable. I will not adjourn this case lets proceed. Put the witnesses in the dock,” Ms Nyutu ruled.

Following the directive, Mr Obiri presented four witnesses brought to court on the strength of a warrant of arrest—Cecilia Ngariuka from the office of the Auditor General, and Jonathan Ruto, David Juma Onyango and Moses Kipsang Kipchumba, all from Kerio Valley Development Authority—but said that he had no questions for them.

Mr Obiri sought an adjournment saying Mr Ingonga's appointment was gazetted last week but President William Ruto has been away on official duty, hence the DPP's swearing in could not take place.

Mr Obiri asked the court to indulge the DPP for two weeks to peruse the file and give instructions on the way forward.

The magistrate declined the request and ordered the case to proceed on Tuesday for further hearing
In the past three weeks, more than 10 witnesses, including former Agriculture CS Peter Munya, have been discharged without testifying in the case with the prosecutors urging the court to wait for the new DPP to take office and give fresh directors in the trial.  

In the case, former Finance CS Rotich is charged with abuse of office over the construction of Arror and Kimwarer dams. He is charged alongside Kennedy Nyakundi Nyachiro, Jackson Njau Kinyanjui, David Kipchumba Kimosop, William Kipkemboi Maina, Paul Kipkoech Serem, Francis Chepkonga Kipkech, Titus Muriithi and Geoffrey Mwangi Wahungu.

The nine are accused of conspiracy to defraud the government of $501,829,769 by unlawfully initiating a contract, and financing and insurance agreement for the development of Arror and Kimwarer multi-purpose dams.

They face 29 charges of engaging in a project without prior planning, wilful failure to comply with procurement laws, abuse of office, and committing an offence of financial misconduct.