Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Isaack Hassan are among top government officials summoned by anti-corruption authorities over the â€œChickenâ€ scandal, the Sunday Nation can reveal.
Sources familiar with the investigations said officials adversely mentioned over the bribery scandal are expected to record statements with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) from this week.
Apart from Mr Chirchir and Mr Hassan, other individuals expected to be questioned are former IEBC chief executive James Oswago and former Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) chief executive officer Paul Wasanga.
Others are lawyer Ken Nyaundi, who was a commissioner with IEBCâ€™s precursor, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), Knec officials Ephraim Wanderi, Michael Ndua and Geoffrey Gitogo, and James Trevy Oyombra, the local agent of British company Smith & Ouzman (S&O).
They are all accused of receiving bribes from the directors of S&O, who were sentenced by a London court on Thursday.
Mr Hassan, Mr Oswago, Mr Wasanga, Mr Oyombra and Mr Nyaundi have denied any involvement in the scandal in which some officials asked for kickbacks and prices of printing tenders to be inflated.
In separate statements on Saturday, Mr Hassan and Mr Nyaundi said they were ready to respond to any questions regarding the scandal.
â€œI want to state categorically that these allegations are untrue and will remain so regardless of how much they are repeated, sensationalised or exploited. I have said it before and will say it again that I have never involved myself in any corrupt practices during my tenure at IIEC or now in IEBC,â€ said Mr Hassan.
On his part, Mr Nyaundi has written to EACC denying any role. In the letter, a copy of which the Sunday Nation has seen, Mr Nyaundi denies knowing Mr Oyombra, the UK printing firmâ€™s local agent.
â€œIn my lifetime I have never met Mr Trevy Oyombra. I have never communicated with him in any way, shape or form: I have never spoken to him on telephone or shared email correspondence with him? How is it that Mr Oyombra is pretending to be negotiating for bribes on behalf of someone he has not met and has no dealings with? Who, exactly, did he pay the bribes, if at all? It is incumbent upon Oyombra to confirm how, where, and to whom he paid bribes, if at all,â€ said Mr Nyaundi.
According to UK prosecutors, the two Smith & Ouzman directors paid bribes, code-named â€œchickenâ€ in communication with their local agent, to the election and exam officials to influence the award of tenders to the printing firm.
Mr Oyombra, the prosecution had told the court, would withdraw the money that had been wired to his bank account as his commission and give it to the election and exam officials.
He had been a junior procurement official in the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and it was probably during that period he developed contacts with the British security printing firm.
Smith & Ouzman was contracted to print various voting and examination materials at inflated rates to cater for the bribes.
In the scandal, the prosecution had told the court that Mr Oyombra would hold meetings with both the electoral and exam officials to plan how tenders would be skewed in favour of Smith & Ouzman and the amount of bribes to be given out in return for the â€œfavoursâ€.
The British firm would also foot at least some of the travel and accommodation costs of top IIEC and Knec officials whenever they travelled to London, the prosecution stated.
In addition, the firm would pay the officials some â€œchickenâ€ so that they could shop for their families.
In its investigations, the EACC is understood to be trying to establish the link between Mr Oyombra and officials of IIEC and Knec.
It is understood that EACC had quietly sent detectives to follow the trial of the Smith & Ouzman executives in London.
â€œThey (the team sent by EACC) sat through a good part of the trial,â€ a source familiar with the matter but who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the issue told the Sunday Nation.
It also emerged that EACC had been waiting for the sentencing of the UK companyâ€™s directors before moving in on Kenyan officials adversely mentioned over the scandal.
On Thursday, the Southwark Crown Court in London handed Mr Smith, 43, a three-year jail term.
Smithâ€™s father, 71, meanwhile, was sentenced to an 18-month suspended term for his role in the scandal in which top IIEC and Knec officials purportedly pocketed Sh50 million.
â€œWe are in the middle of investigations and two of our investigators came back on Friday. We had sought mutual legal assistance with our counterparts, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), and we are collaborating with them to ensure the investigations are completed,â€ EACC chief executive Halakhe Waqo said.
According to Mr Waqo, EACC has been investigating officials of the electoral body for the last two years. He added that EACC will follow all the leads to get to the bottom of the matter.
â€œWe will go where the investigations lead us. Part of the investigation is about the conduct of certain individuals at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and its precursor IIEC,â€ he added.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the Law Society of Kenya had on Friday urged EACC to speed up investigations and haul the Kenyans mentioned in the bribery scandal to court to answer to corruption charges.
â€œWe have a chance to send clear signals about our distaste for impunity and corruption. By virtue of the positions they held and continue to hold, IEBC chairman Issack Hassan, Energy Cabinet Secretary Davies Chirchir and former chief executive James Oswago must immediately be taken in for prosecution,â€ said Mr Odinga in a statement.
NOT ON TRIAL
In his statement on Saturday, Mr Hassan said the offences for which the officials of Smith & Ouzman were sentenced occurred between November 1, 2006 and December 31, 2010 while IEBC came into office in November 2011.
In any case, Mr Hassan added, he was not on trial in the UK courts.
â€œLike any other citizen of this country, I am entitled to the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Constitution until proved otherwise. I will be accorded the opportunity to face any accusers and defend myself in accordance with the laws of Kenya,â€ he said.
According to Mr Hassan, just because he holds the position of chairman does not mean he is not entitled to fair and accurate comment.
â€œIt has even been suggested that since the officials of the Smith & Ouzman, who are supposed to have bribed us, have been found guilty and sentenced by the UK courts, we should also be guilty. There is no law that works on such a cut and paste principle,â€ he said.
IEBC, he said, was helping the anti-corruption authorities with the investigations of the allegations. â€œIt is our hope that the outcome will clear the air on the matter once and for all,â€ Mr Hassan said.
Mr Nyaundi was named along with Mr Hassan, Mr Oswago, Mr Chirchir, IEBC director of legal affairs Praxedes Tororey and a Mr Sang from then Government Printer as the team that travelled to the UK to verify ballots before printing during which they were allegedly bribed.
But Mr Nyaundi says the trip to the UK was normal to verify the ballots being printed.