Anti-graft team grills Hassan and Oswago over ‘chicken’ scandal

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Issack Hassan addresses journalists outside Integrity Centre

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Issack Hassan addresses journalists outside Integrity Centre

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has begun questioning Kenyans linked to the directors of a British printing firm convicted of paying Sh47.3 million in bribes.

The payments, referred to as “chicken” in emails used to convict the two, were allegedly made to officials of the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), its successor the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) to secure contracts for electoral and exam materials IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan yesterday spent two hours with EACC detectives at Integrity Centre in Nairobi. He is among numerous individuals facing questioning over the matter involving a total of 10 contracts to the British firm under dubious circumstances.

Former IEBC chief executive officer James Oswago appeared for grilling later yesterday while Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir and former Knec Secretary Paul Wasanga will have their turn today. Mr Wasanga will be questioned over the award of a tender to Smith & Ouzman to print examination certificates.

Before his appointment, Mr Chirchir worked as a commissioner at the IIEC, which the UK court heard, gave out tenders for materials for by-elections in Shinyalu and Bomachoge in 2009.

Last week, the UK’s Southwark Crown Court jailed Christopher John Smith, 71, and his son Nicholas Charles Smith, 43, both directors of Smith & Ouzman, for making corrupt payments to officials in Kenya and Mauritania.

The younger Smith was imprisoned for three years and his father, the chairman of the company, was sentenced to 18 months in jail, but the punishment was suspended for two years for what the judge described as a “simple act of mercy”.

According to the prosecution, Kenyan Trevy Oyombra was the broker who ensured that the printing company secured the contracts after payment of bribes to officials of IIEC and Knec.

Oyombra will be questioned next week. Others mentioned are former IIEC commissioners Ken Nyaundi, Kenneth Karani and Hamida Ali Kibwana and Knec officials Ephraim Wanderi, Michael Ndua and Geoffrey Gitogo.

Yesterday Hassan declared his innocence after emerging from questioning.

Hassan said he was summoned there to give information on his role as the chairman of the defunct IIEC over a tender in printing of ballot papers.

“I am innocent in all these allegations. We were never questioned in connection with the jailing of the London suspects. These wazungus were given fair trial,” said Hassan, adding that they, too, should be allowed to go through fair process.

Integrity Centre

He arrived at Integrity Centre at 7.30am and left at 9.45 am. He accused the media of trying and convicting him and his colleagues.

“The trial by the media should stop. I am impressed by the professional officials who handled me here,” said Hassan before he left.

He was being grilled as the top officials at EACC led by the chairman Mumo Matemu drove out towards Parliament where they faced MPs who are unhappy about their performance.

EACC is investigating the officials over their role at IIEC in the scandal involving payments of bribes, bastardised “chicken” in emails, estimated at Sh50 million between October 1, 2008 and December 31, 2010. IIEC is the predecessor of the current IEBC.

On Wednesday, the EACC officials visited IEBC offices and took away documents. The seizure came after EACC officers returned at the weekend from London where they obtained proceedings of the London case. The file on the probe will be forwarded to the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for action probably next Friday, officials said.

In one instance, the UK court was told that on June 1, 2009, Smith, who was Smith & Ouzman’s sales and marketing manager, wrote to Hassan about printing voter registration forms, voter ID cards and ballot papers for the urgent Shinyalu and Bomachoge by-elections.

The price quoted was £32,526. There were email discussions between Nicholas Smith and the agent, Trevy Oyombra, about payment of £750 commission to the latter and the necessity to pay IIEC Senior Procurement Officer and other officials. Trevy later asked his commission to be increased to £1,000.

While sentencing the Britons, Judge Higgins said the loss to the people of Kenya and Mauritania was beyond financial consideration because citizens of the two nations are less able to trust the integrity of their electoral and examination systems.

“The consequences of which, as you yourself were at pains to point out during the trial, could be catastrophic, leading to violence and loss of life,” he said





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