EACC wins case to recover cemetery cash

Integrity centre

Integrity Centre in Nairobi which houses the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission offices. 

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has won a suit to recover Sh173 million stolen in 2009 during the purchase of land for use as a public cemetery by the defunct Nairobi City Council.

According to documents filed in court by the commission, then Nairobi City Council Town Clerk John Gakuo received Sh283 million from then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government Sammy Kirui for the purchase of the land that was meant to provide an alternative to Lang’ata cemetery.

The anti-graft body said in court papers that officials from the city council, in collusion with other individuals, purchased the land for Sh110 million in a flawed tendering process. The remaining funds were distributed to various private companies, individuals and public officers.

Investigations by the EACC revealed that the Sh110 million paid for the land had been exaggerated and was based on a forged valuation report. This is after its valuers placed its actual price at Sh30 million. The commission is however seeking to recover the Sh173 million.

City county officials received their share of the loot through 26 law firms and private entities. Some Sh8.6 million was sent to Mr Herman Steven Chavera, a former chief finance officer at the Local government ministry and Boniface Okerosi Misera, then chief supply chain manager.

Mr Chavera used some of the funds to carry out renovation works at his residence in South B and in constructing on a residential plot in Kakamega town. His accomplice used his loot to restock his business, Verona Medicare Ltd, among other transactions.

In efforts to recover the stolen funds, EACC filed nine suits in 2012 some of which have since been ruled in its favour.

On February 22, 2022, the High Court ordered Stephen Kamau Githinji, the owner of the Valley Road Shell petrol station to refund Sh8 million that had been paid to him in two batches of Sh4 million each. He had received the money on behalf of the head of procurement at the city council identified as Alexander Musee.

On July 6, Justice Esther Maina ordered Naen Rech Ltd and its director Maina Chege to refund Sh9.5 million together with interest from the date of fraudulent receipt in 2009.

EACC established that the land offered for purchase by Naen Rech did not meet the criteria set by the tender document on soil suitability for a cemetery. The soil depth also did not reach a minimum depth of 1.8 metres and therefore did not meet the mandatory condition of six-feet soil depth.

Additionally, the company was not the registered owner of the land, which went against the condition set in the tender that it was open to individuals who owned land.

“The tender process was irregular as the tender committee proceeded to award the tender to Naen Rech Limited when it had not met the eligibility to tender and had not met the mandatory requirements of the tender. The action of the tender committee awarding the tender to Naen Rech Limited when it had not met the eligibility and mandatory requirements was part of a larger corrupt scheme,” said EACC

On Tuesday last week, Justice John Onyiego found that Boniface Okerosi Misera, then head of procurement, had also received Sh10 million through a proxy identified as Peterson Onyiego Gichana, which he was not entitled to. Mr Gichana later withdrew the money in two tranches of Sh5 million each and hand it to Mr Misera in the company of Mr Chavera. For the “inconvenience”, he was given Sh100,000.

The judge ordered Mr Misera to refund the money together with costs and interest from the date of receipt in 2009.

Mr Gakuo, who was among the principal schemers, died in prison while serving his jail term. Criminal proceedings against other officials are ongoing.