BendABuru Alert..... The County Capture Cartel in HomaBay has woven a web of transactions and sympathisers to support them plunder the County public
The County Capture Cartel in HomaBay has woven a web of transactions and sympathisers to support them plunder the County public resources at will. Despite their activities increasingly coming under public scrutiny, the Cartel appears to have become more brave, even graduated with an the latest attempt to loot Kshs. 700M million in World Bank Project.
So when last week, the County Government of HomaBay, felt compelled to take out a paid advertisement in a local daily to respond to the flood of claims of non-performance and plunder of public resources by a clique of public servants and politicians. The countys’ response was not just a humorous pleasant surprise, but also out of character. For a county known to blatantly refuses / fails to honour requests for information, this in itself deserved the distinction of breaking news.
More so, knowing jolly well the county recently FAILED to avail a list of projects undertaken in 2017 to the Auditor General for scrutiny during the recent Audit – Surely!!! The sudden outburt of generocity with information by the County is not genuine. Leaving the conclusion, that unlike the Auditor General, the newspapers advertisements don’t ask the tough questions.
So who is fooling who?
Another Scandal Emerges – NARIGP Scum
Even as the county government was busy explaining its way out of the maze of dodgy deals that have since become the hallmark of the Governor Awiti Administration, it was engulfed in yet another suspected heist – NARIGP Scandal – as we now reveal.
National Agricultural & Rural Growth Project Progress and Direction Project [NARIGP] a World Bank funded project, with County co-funding focuses on promoting specific agricultural initiatives including dairy cattle farming, groundnuts cultivation and value addition, Tilapia fish pond farming, and Banana cultivation. The countrywide project is being rolled-out to 21 targetted counties, with Homabay being one of the beneficiary counties.
Set to run over a 5 year period [2017- 2021], on completion, the project will have pumped Kshs. 700 million in five sub-counties of HomaBay County – Gwasi South, Rangwe, Kendu-Bay, Ndhiwa and Mbita.
……When Shady Deals Kicked in …….Change of Banking Institution and Signatories
Following the agreement signed between World Bank and County Government of HomaBay, World Bank transferred Kshs. 55.6 Million in 18th June 2018 being the initial 2017/18 funding for the project to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). The CBK then credited the funds to HomaBay County Account: N.A.T AGRI & RUR GR (KES) , Account Number 1000369148 on 18th June 2018.
First Fraudulent Move – Choice of Bank!!
While the NARIGP project agreement signed between the World Bank and County is VERY SPECIFIC about the commercial bank where the County MUST open an account for transmission of the project funds. The agreement identifed Kenya Commercial Bank as the designated commercial Bank where the County should open an account to enable the transfer and management of the project funds.
County employees in suspicious circumstances, and complete disregard of World Bank Agreement opened a suspicious Bank Account in ECO Bank Kisumu – and not Kenya Commercial Bank [KCB] HomaBay as agreed! Notably. a fully fledged KCB branch exists in HomaBay!
Named County employees in suspicious circumstances, and in complete disregard of the Project Agreement with the World Bank; Ben Odhiambo, Noah Otieno and Elvis Kithine proceeded to open a NARIGP project account with ECO Bank, Kisumu Branch on 2nd May 2018.
This and all, while Kenya Commercial Bank has a fully functional branch in HomaBay. Town!
Interesting Coincidence – The county employees seem to have received and secured the goodwill of an ECO Bank employee Ms Mercy Ochanda who facilitated and signed the Account Opening forms at ECO Bank Kisumu. One is forgiven for wondering, whether it’s a coincidence, that Ms. Ochanda is reportedly a spouse to the current HomaBay County CEC Finance Mr. Nicholas Koriko during whose tenure as CEC many dodgy deals seem to have surfaced.
Notably in the previous tenure of Governor Awiti, in 2015/16, Mr. Koriko [CEC Finance] narrowly escaped impeachment over the Kadongo – Gendia Road Scandal having irregularly paid Kshs. 112.5 million [Kshs 110 M Oasis Internationa and 2.2M reportedly paid to an insurance firm] as mobilisation fee for work which was never done! He was then transfered.
An issue which had sinced dogged the Awiti Administration over the year as the failed to answer conclusively.
Second Dubious Move – Changes in Account Signatories
As part of the governance structure for the funds, The World Bank and NARIGP national co-ordination Unit approved and recognized specific signatories to the NARIGP funds account. The signatories in the agreement prescribed (i) the Chief Officer Agriculture and Livestock, (ii) Chief Officer Finance and Economic Planning and (iii) the Project Co-ordinator Homabay County as the third signatory.
To support the scheme to siphon the funds, the schemers, set out to change the signatories to secure signatories supportive of their dubious designs.
Under unclear circumstances, the The Department of Agriculture and Livestock was split into (i) Agriculture and Food Security and (ii) livestock and fisheries. The Chief Officer involved in the project from concept stage, and who was directly involved in the project as a signatory Mr. Duncan Ojiem was considered unfavourable to the designs and therefore shunted aside to the Agriculture and Food Security portfolio. This was to enable the entry of Ben Onyango Chief Officer as signatory to the NARIGP funds account as Chief Officer Department of Livestock and Fisheries.
And the final move in the typical strategy used in the county to shunt aside people who don’t agree to play the corruption ball, the Project Co-ordinator being the third signatory to the NARIGP funds account, Mr. Eric Adel Odhiambo was also replaced. Mr. Odhiambo a Principal of the local HomaBay Agricultural Training Institute also involved in the project from conception. He was irregularly redeployed by the Agriculture and livestock CEC Mr. Aguko Juma for whistle blowing on the ongoings and was demoted to handle Karachuonyo Sub-County under unclear circumstances to cover the thickening plot. He was replaced, by an inexperienced Elvis Kithine as Project Co-ordinator.
With the splitting of departments, transfers and new titles, the scheme complete and paved the way to start siphoning the funds through the irregular bank Account at Ecobank with Ben Odhiambo, Noah Otieno and Elvis Odalo Kithine as signatories.
The plan, by the schemers to replace the Third signatory, however hit its first snag because the new appointee Ben Onyango, [said to be an expert in these deals having worked with IFFAD another development partner and left with a patchy history] happened not to be an IFMIS approved signatory for the department started raising queries.
World Bank halted the transfer to funds to the account with clear instructions that the county had to open a Kenya Commercial Account, which the County grudging complied.
In order to hide the Incubator Scandal in the Awiti first tenure, the project is reportedly now be altered to focus on chicken instead of fish farming.
Further, because of the dodgy selfish interests, of the some of the county staff, the unnecessary delays in the project due the cited suspicious changes which circumvented the signed agreement, in order to gain access to the funds. The project has fallen behind schedule. There has been no public participation, nor has any group received the funds which was a project expectation end of October 2018.
Sensing lack of transparency from the county, the development partners seem to have grown cold feet and the project appears to be continuing in fits and starts. Notably, while the county has receive the 55 Million disbursements for the first year 2017-18, of the project, there is no tangible result on the ground except for a training two weeks ago [Nov. 2018] for county employee at a hotel in Rongo, Migori County. A location far removed from HomaBay town to justify paying nightout allowances.
At stake, is Kshs. 146 Million for the year 2018-19 which unless the County provides a suitable report to the world bank, funding will be withheld.
It remains to be seen what [if any] reports the County will present to the World Bank as achievements for the first year of the project County will present to the World Bank and NARIGP national co-ordination Unit to enable disbursement of the next batch. The matter has also been reported to the relevant law enforcement agencies for investigation and prosecution – as usual we wait an see.
…Ducking for Cover …
Agriculture and livestock CEC Mr. Aguko Juma, Noah Otieno and Elvis Odalo Kithine refused to answer any of our questions about these deals. This wasn’t altogether surprising. Perhaps they will buy a paid advert to answer the status of the NARIGP. Event that too would be an achievement.
We shall keep you all posted.
Thank you for reading this article! The articles you choose to read on Bendaburu help to shape good governance, and transparency in HomaBay, Kenya and supports the fight against corruption across Africa.
-Peter Ouma Muga