Okiya Omtatah loses case alleging taxpayer cash in private account

Okiya Omtatah

Lawyer Okiya Omtatah sought to freeze Sh180 million allegedly transferred from the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee to a private bank account.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The High Court has struck out a suit filed by Busia senator Okiya Omtatah seeking to freeze Sh180 million allegedly transferred from the Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee to a private bank account.

Mr Omtatah had claimed that the money was unlawfully transferred to the agency’s assistant director Monica Wambua’s personal account held at CFC Stanbic bank.

He had also alleged that there was conspiracy to steal the public funds allocated to the committee by diverting the money to the personal account.

But Justice Esther Maina threw out the petition following Mr Omtatah's failure to comply with an earlier order to file his written arguments so as to pave way for the hearing of his claim of public funds loss.

The judge declined Mr Omtatah's argument that the delay to prosecute the case had been occasioned by the recent elections and the ongoing induction of senators at Naivasha.

"This court is not a parking lot where cases are filed but parties fail to prosecute. We are currently facing a backlog of cases occasioned by parties' failure to comply with orders of filling pleadings. The petition is dismissed with cost," Justice Maina said.

Mr Omtatah filed the case in January this year alleging that the public agency had channeled huge amounts of money to Ms Wambua’s account, which was not subject to the legal checks and balances that govern public accounts to safeguard public money.

He sought an order directing the Auditor General to conduct a forensic audit on all accounts operated by the public agency, showing the flow of money to and from the said personal bank account.

Mr Omtatah had sued the committee’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Leley, for allegedly directing public funds to be channeled through a private account and Ms Wambua for allegedly handling public funds using her private bank account.

According to him, the decision to use a personal account to handle public funds is both unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

“There was no public participation in the decision to use the personal account to handle the Committee’s funds and delaying the case might render the petition useless as the funds might be transferred or spent,” Mr Omtatah stated in his court documents.

The court further had been told that the funds in subject of the lawsuit had been exposed since the account was not subject to checks and balances in law, which govern public accounts to safeguard public money.

Mr Omtatah claimed that Mr Leley and Ms Wambua could have conspired to steal public funds by diverting the committee’s money to the personal account, to which they had exclusive and unfettered access.

But Mr Leley refuted the claims and dismissed allegations by Mr Omtatah. Mr Leley said Mr Omtatah was falsely and insufficiently equipped with the relevant information to adequately address the matters raised in the petition.

“I can confirm that there has been no unlawful or irregular transfer of public funds amounting to Sh180 million from the IRTC deposited in the Monica Wambua’s personal account,” said Mr Leley through lawyer Danstan Omari.

He said the only funds in the private account was the Daily Subsistence Allowance for Ms Wambua which were subject to audit.

He said the Sh180 million that Mr Omtatah was referring to in the court papers was for the purposes of undertaking the exercise of valuation and transfer of public assets.

The funds were not in private account and the same account can be adequately accounted for, he stated.

Mr said the committee took over the function of preparing and validating an inventory of all the existing assets and liabilities of government, other public entities and local authorities.

“Mr Omtatah has ignorantly and reluctantly relied upon information that is incomplete and untrue and, as such, the entire application is unmerited and misleading to the court,” said lawyer Omari.

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