Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko allegedly pocketed up to Sh20 million in kick backs from a lucrative garbage collection contract that now threatens to end his decade long flamboyant political career.
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives claim that some of the firms that won the Sh357 million tender wired more than Sh20 million to Sonko’s bank accounts.
However, the money was not paid directly but through proxies and sister companies in what sleuths believe was a calculated move meant to avoid raising suspicions.
On Tuesday Sonko was taken through a marathon eight-hour grilling at Integrity Centre, where he recorded 13 different statements. He denied receiving any money and all other allegations, insisting that he was not involved in the procurement process.
Sonko blamed people he did not name in his office for making the payments behind his back.
“I blacklisted the companies and blocked their payments after the Environment committee raised issues,” he added.
The EACC is investigating claims of corruption in the award of the tenders for 2017-18 and 2018-19. At the centre of the alleged bribery claim is one Anthony Otieno Ombok — a director of Yiro Enterprises, one of the firms that received the controversial tender.
Ombok is also said to be a director of another firm known as ROG Security Ltd. Ombok, alias Jamal, is associated with Sonko and EALA MP Simon Mbugua who is also a close friend of Sonko.
Ombok and Mbugua are among people charged in April last year with robbery with violence in connection with the attack on former NCBDA chairperson Timothy Muriuki on April 30 at Hotel Boulevard in Nairobi.
According to EACC investigations, after receipt of payment from the Nairobi County Government, some of the firms would wire part of the cash to bank accounts associated with Ombok. He would then send the money to Sonko’s bank accounts.
Detectives have established the complex money trail, almost similar to a tactic used by Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu to get cash from the county.
“It’s alleged that the companies that won the garbage collection tenders after receipt of payments from Nairobi City County Government through proxies and sister companies made payments of over Sh20 million to Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko—through his bank accounts,” an EACC document states.
However, the probe is also focusing on claims that the tenders were dogged by procurement irregularities and misappropriation of public funds. There are also claims of inflated payments, fraud and conflict of interest.
Since the EACC probe became public, Sonko has presented himself as an innocent governor who is only being sought for the sins committed by his employees.
“I’m not under investigation, but I was summoned as the Chief Executive of the county to come and shed light,” Sonko said on Tuesday after the questioning at Integrity Centre.
“As county boss, I don’t sit in the procurement committee and I’m not the accounting officer but I have the general responsibility for my officers.”
Sonko claimed the questions centred on concerns raised previously by the county Environment committee questioning how some of the companies were awarded tenders without proper qualifications and due process.
But it has emerged that the probe threatens to shatter the political career of the first-term governor with a massive following in the city.
If charged, Sonko’s prosecution is likely to plunge Nairobi into a constitutional crisis. He has refused to name a deputy governor almost 21 months after his deputy Polycarp Igathe resigned over their troubled working relationship.
This means Sonko will have no one to hand over to, a precedent that has already been set by the High Court following a landmark decision by Justice Mumbi Ngugi.
Worse, the Nairobi county assembly has no substantive speaker following the impeachment of Beatrice Elachi.
Already, Kiambu Governor Ferdinard Waititu and his Samburu counterpart Moses Lenolkulal have been barred from office, sending shock waves among governors on the radar of anti-graft detectives.
Justice Mumbi ruled that county chiefs charged with corruption should stay away from office. Their roles should be completely taken over by their deputies for the duration of their trials, the ruling stated.
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