Najib Balala, ex-PS Gwiyo released on bail in Sh3.3bn Utalii college saga

Former Tourism Minister Najib Balala, former Permanent Secretary Leah Gwiyo and Joseph Odero inside Malindi Chief Magistrate's Court. on Friday.

Photo credit: Philip Muyanga | Nation Media Group

Former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala and former Permanent Secretary Leah Gwiyo have been charged with abuse of office.

Balala and Gwiyo are alleged to have decided to engage private consultants against a Cabinet decision, resulting in the irregular payment of Sh3.3 billion for consultancy services for the design, documentation, supervision and contract management of the proposed Ronald Ngala Utalii College.

The two, who appeared before Malindi Chief Magistrate James Mwaniki, denied the charges and were released on Sh5 million bond each with a surety in like sum or an alternative Sh1 million cash bail.

They were accused of using their positions as CS and PS to corruptly give a benefit (pay the money) to Baseline Architects Ltd, Ujenzi Consultants, Armitech Consulting Engineering and Westconsult Consultant Engineers for consultancy services.

The court heard that the offence was committed on December 13, 2010 in Mombasa.

Joseph Odero, a managing partner at Westconsult Engineers, denied fraudulently obtaining Sh292.4 million from the Tourism Fund, formerly Catering and Tourism Development Levy Trustees.

Issuing fee notes

Odero is alleged to have unlawfully acquired the money by issuing fee notes for amounts in excess of the work done in respect of the tender for consultancy services for the design, documentation, supervision and contract management of the proposed Ronald Ngala Utalii College, resulting in overpayment by the Tourism Fund. The offence is alleged to have been committed in Nairobi between May 15, 2012 and February 28, 2022.

He was released on Sh3 million bond with a surety of the same amount or an alternative Sh800,000 cash bail.

The court granted bail terms to all the accused as it found that none of them posed a flight risk and that there were no aggravating factors to deny them bail.

Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Kiprop did not oppose the release of the accused on bail and undertook to ensure that the defence is provided with the documents they intend to rely on in the prosecution of the case.

However, he opposed the defence lawyers' request to be provided with communications between the prosecution and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) relating to the case.

The case has been set for mention on December 28, when other suspects who have been arrested and are in custody are expected to be brought before the court to enter pleas.