Masai Mara University whistleblower Spencer Sankale

Masai Mara University whistleblower Spencer Sankale during the Wapi Nduru project launch by ICPAK and Amnesty International Kenya on August 5, 2020.

| Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

Maasai Mara University accuses whistleblower of fraud

What you need to know:

  • The allegation is that during his tenure as acting finance officer, there was a questionable withdrawal of a total of Sh85 million between January 2015 and June 2016.

Maasai Mara University has denied victimising sacked Chief Finance Officer Spencer Sankale Ololchike for whistleblowing on alleged graft at the institution.

The institution instead accuses Mr Sankale of being involved in fraud and pilferage of the institution’s finances.

The allegation is that during his tenure as acting finance officer, there was a questionable withdrawal of a total of Sh85 million between January 2015 and June 2016.

“As a result, he has acquired so much wealth whose source is questionable. It is alleged that he owns a restaurant in and commercial buildings in Narok town, land within and outside Narok, businesses which require huge amounts of capital to start,” Dr Kennedy ole Kerei, the university’s council chairman, says in response to a suit Mr Sankale filed challenging his dismissal.

In court papers, Dr Kerei also claims the sacked whistleblower drives fancy cars that “his earnings from the university cannot support”.

He says Mr Sankale was not victimised because of speaking out about the alleged graft scandal dubbed ‘Mara heist’, which made him rise to fame.

The institution explains that in recognition of his role as a whistleblower, the university’s council promoted Mr Sankale from senior accountant to acting chief internal auditor on June 29, 2020.

“The elevation was to give him unrestricted access to all information, including confidential information, so that he would directly report to the council any anomalies for immediate corrective action in terms of the Human Resource (HR) Policy of 2018,” says Dr Kerei.

New council defended

The promotion was by the new council appointed in March last year following the graft scandal.

It also appointed Prof Kitche Magak the acting vice chancellor to replace Prof Mary Walingo, who was facing a court case.

After accepting the promotion and his new role, Mr Sankale dramatically resigned on August 25, 2020, after serving for about two months.

The following day, in an interview on Citizen TV, he made allegations of corruption against the new council.

According to Dr Kerei, the fresh allegations were based on an internal audit report dated May 29, 2020 and the draft external audit dated February 27 the same year from the office of the auditor-general.

He says that in the television interview, Mr Sankale alleged that matters had worsened and that the council had not acted on available audit reports.

Dr Kerei states that the accounting officer also made false, defamatory allegations and used words that were in bad faith and unlawful because he relied on audit reports which covered a period during which the new council was not in office.

“The two audit reports did not concern the activities of the new council, which had been in office for just five months, and the new acting VC, who had been in office for seven months. The petitioner (Sankale) maliciously and sensationally made allegations of graft that were never captured in the internal audit report that he alluded to,” he says.

He adds that Mr Sankale failed to share the evidence, if any, of corruption with the relevant State authorities and constitutional bodies responsible for fighting and preventing graft.

University’s reputation

The chairman further accused the whistleblower of failing “to care about the reputation of the university, whose image had already been tainted by his previous reckless actions”.

“The petitioner did not care about the reputation and career progression of the persons he mentioned as having been involved in corruption without evidence. He ignored all the internal mechanisms that have been mainstreamed to prevent and combat corruption, including the university ombudsman and the corruption prevention committee,” says Dr Kerei.

Following the graft allegations, the council resolved to invite Mr Sankale to a meeting to deliberate on the allegations he raised in the media. It also resolved to engage the auditor-general for a financial forensic audit from the year 2013.

But Mr Sankale declined to provide any information on the corruption allegations he made in the television interview and to provide the evidence. He was given a second chance in September, to provide a written response, but he ignored the council’s letter and continued to make unverified claims of corruption.

Dr Kerei has denied that Mr Sankale was not accorded a chance to be heard before being dismissed and wants the court to dismiss his petition.

“The relationship between the petitioner and the university’s administration is irretrievably broken down, therefore this court should not force them to work together. The petitioner feels bigger than the employer and does not respect anyone,” she says.

“His search for fame has had the effect of completely distorting the image of the university.”

Parties in the case are expected to file all their documents within seven days, ahead of a hearing on September 28, as set by Justice Nduma Nderi.

The Transparency International, Institute of Public Accountants Kenya and Amnesty International Kenya are the interested parties in the case.