The Industrial Area Nairobi Maximum Security Prison where former Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo (INSET) is being held.
Twenty-four hours after they sentenced to three years in former Nairobi Town Clerk Gakuo and ex-Permanent Sammy Kirui were yesin humble posture and regret as they talked to the Daily inside the Industrial Nairobi Maximum Security In a rare behind-bars-interview, the high profile convicts jailed their part in the Sh283 million Cemetery Land scandal, who made a name as a high clerk of the defunct City Council, said his bigregret is that even if he is set on appeal, his reputation has dented irreparably.
“I am innocent and unapolofor my role in the purported land scam,” said Gakuo he sat next to Kirui on hard form, inside a visitors’ The People Daily, after applying through the regular prison visitation rules, was the first team of visitors to see the two after their sentencing.
Gakuo and Kirui blamed a some political elite for their woes, claiming they were innocent while the “owners of the scam who controlled City Hall are walking free”.
Former City Hall director of procurement Alexander Musee, we had also requested to see, did not appear for the interview. It was also not immediately possible to see former Legal Affairs Secretary Mary Ng’ethe who started serving her term at Lang’ata Women Prisons.
Wearing the black-and-white stripped prison garments, and each wearing a pair of shoes without socks, Gakuo and Kirui seemed deeply troubled men as they engaged in the interview animatedly. Their heads were clean-shaven, a sign that they had undergone initial jail formalities.
We could not take their pictures as photography is strictly prohibited behind bars.
Appeal hearing Gakuo and Kirui said they had been prepared for any eventuality during the hearing of their case, “though inside our hearts we know we are innocent,” said the former Town Clerk as they revealed they had instructed their lawyers to appeal against conviction and sentence, and to be granted bail when the appeal hearing starts.
“I am innocent and even if I am back in the same office 100 times I will not do things differently. I had no powers to cancel that tender or to stop the procurement process,” said Gakuo, adding that he was not bitter but felt sacrificed.
“I am not aware why I am here in the first place because I never got a penny from the said cemetery land scandal,” added Gakuo, casting a wistful glance at the solid roof of the room from which he could leave and walk to freedom.
“In the fullness of time, I will be vindicated and maybe salvage my reputation,” he added, holding his chin and his eyes glistening with obvious pain.
However, Gakuo said the prison authorities treated them well.
“I can’t complain for now. I am contented with the services,” he said before a prison warder came and interrupted the conversation, reminding Gakuo it was time for dinner. It was 3.30pm.
According to an officer who sought anonymity, Gakuo and Kirui were being held in rooms separate from the common cells where they sleep on beds with mattresses and have access to radio.
Kirui, who had just collected his ablution necessities appeared holding two green bathing soaps, a toothbrush and toothpaste. He said even though he felt bad to be jailed for a crime he says he never committed, he sympathised more with Gakuo’s ordeal whom he termed an “honest man”..
“When I saw Gakuo sweating in court, I felt pain because in my heart I am clear he remains innocent,” he said.
Kirui blamed the political class whom he says benefitted from the loot but framed “innocent fall guys”.
“My long career and reputation is being trashed but I will be vindicated and try to salvage my face,” he said. He added that Ngethe, in her affidavit, implicated persons of interest from the political class but they were let off the hook.
“With time, our ordeal will be over and we will have our day to explain our story,” he said as they rose to walk towards their prison block.
As the metallic gates swallow them into incarceration, they cut a forlorn figure of two men in illfitting jail regalia, all their past reputations shrunken to the lowest measure.
Ex-PS, Gakuo get 3 years over cemetery scam
Former Permanent Secretary Sammy Kirui (right) former Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo (second right) ex City Hall Legal Affairs director Mary Ng’ethe
It was a rare crack of the anti-graft whip on big fish as former Local Government permanent secretary Sammy Kirui and ex-Nairobi Town Clerk John Gakuo were yesterday jailed for three years for being found guilty of abuse of office charges over the purchase of Sh283 million land in Mavoko, Machakos county, meant for a Nairobi cemetery.
Milimani anti-corruption court magistrate Douglas Ogoti also ordered the two to pay a fine of Sh1 million each for willful failure to comply with procurement laws.
The magistrate also found Gakuo’s co-accused Mary Ng’ethe, a former city council legal secretary and Alexander Musee guilty of knowingly giving false information about the land saga. They were sentenced to three years in prison each, while Ng’ethe was fined Sh52 million or serve another year in jail while Musee will pay a fine of Sh32 million or spend one more year behind bars.
The sentence could dim the otherwise sterling career of Gakuo as a performer in public positions, which saw him touted as among likely names to replace Polycarp Igathe as Deputy of Governor of Nairobi county.
Gakuo has also been a member of the Nairobi re-generation committee co-chaired by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Tourism Minister Najib Balala.
The cemetery scam unfolded in 2010 when the then Nairobi City Council bought land valued at Sh24 million at Sh283 million in an area rated as a far-flung wasteland bordering the southern fringes of Nairobi National Park.
The scandal roped in the then Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi when the then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) commenced investigations to establish whether he was party to the fraud. Mudavadi protested his innocence, accusing KACC of being used by his detractors to dent his political career.
KACC later cleared Mudavadi on grounds that no monies from the alleged illegal deal were deposited in his accounts.
Ng’ethe and Musee were also found guilty of giving a false, inflated valuation report which was relied on to purchase the land in question.
Ogoti said the court had carefully considered the evidence presented to it and came to a conclusion that it was proved against them.
“I find them guilty and I convict them accordingly,” he said.
“It was a clear case. Only they know why they acted the way they did and failed to stop embezzlement of public funds,” Ogoti ruled
The magistrate said the prosecution had established a prima facie (clear) case that Kirui and Gakuo knew the tender documents were false but did nothing to stop the embezzlement.
He said the lot acted passively and allowed an act of corruption to take place.
The accused were found to have committed the offence on December 18, 2008 at Jogoo House, Nairobi.
Musee chaired the tender committee that approved the payment to Naen Rech Ltd for the land in Mavoko, while Ng’ethe was the committee’s secretary.
Ng’ethe and Musee faced accusations of giving a misleading report, purporting that the committee had agreed to buy the controversial 120-acre plot that the prosecution said was worth just Sh24 million.
The four were charged after the prosecution established that they received substantial financial benefits towards the procurement of the land.
The anti-corruption agency said the price paid was far above the prevailing market rates at the time.
Gakuo was accused of neglecting his duties as Town Clerk.
The then President Mwai Kibaki suspended 13 top officials in the ministries of Local Government and Finance in the wake of the cemetery land scandal in 2008.
The then Attorney General Amos Wako gave KACC the go-ahead to charge the suspects.
The Mavoko land, intended to replace the already full Lang’ata cemetery, was found unsuitable for use as a burial site, the prosecution said.
Initial reports to show its unsuitability had cited long distance from Nairobi, apart from being in the wildlife range of Nairobi National Park.
The convicted persons have 14 days to appeal their sentences.
In 2012, Geoffrey Majiwa, who was the mayor of Nairobi when the scandal unfolded, was acquitted.
Anti-corruption court magistrate Lucy Nyambura ruled that the prosecution did not establish a case to warrant putting Majiwa on his defence.
She said Majiwa only signed the documents at the tail-end of the deal after all other processes had been done.
She added: “Even though they worked for the City Council, they were not involved in negotiations for the transactions of the cemetery land.”
The legal department, she said, had approved the same and the mayor only fulfilled his statutory duty by signing documents.
Also vindicated by the court was Geoffrey Kahindi who was not an employee of City Council when the contract negotiations started in 2007.