Posted on24 July, 2016 | 00:53

‘Chickengate mastermind’ accuses EACC of malice to appease public

Trevy Oyombra, the alleged mastermind of the “Chickengate” scandal on Saturday came out to fight off claims that he bribed top election and examination officials to dish out tenders to a firm in the United Kingdom.

Trevy Oyombra, the alleged mastermind of the “Chickengate” scandal on Saturday came out to fight off claims that he bribed top election and examination officials to dish out tenders to a firm in the United Kingdom.

In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Oyombra questioned the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) decision to recommend charges against four out of the original seven Kenyans mentioned, suggesting the anti-graft body was acting maliciously to appease the public. “Serious Fraud Office (SFO) did thank EACC for helping them investigate the allegations in Kenya in which names were allegedly mentioned and presented in a charge sheet in the UK (Southwark) Crown Court.

It baffles me that the same EACC that helped SFO investigate now only recommends four people out of the list they okayed to SFO in 2012-2013, the period of investigation. What has changed? SFO did not come to Kenya to investigate,” said Mr Oyombra. The EACC has recommended to the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko that Mr Oyombra along with former CEO of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) James Oswago and two other electoral officials - Hamida Ali Kibwana and Kenneth Karani - be charged over the bribery scandal for the tender to print ballot papers.

The charges against the four relate to 2010 Referendum ballot papers as well as Shinyalu and Bamachoge election papers. The UK prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron had alleged that the Kenyan electoral officials were paid a sum of £349,057.39 (Sh46m at current rates). SFO alleged that the electoral and S&O officials accommodated bribes in pricing by inflating the prices by up to 38 per cent.

According to Mr Oyombra, he had always maintained “official” working relationship with the bosses of the then Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) and the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec). “I did not at any time or point in my work as an agent give any bribe to anyone at IEBC or Knec or any other organisation that S&O did supply materials to". I did not issue or facilitate any bribe or kickbacks. It hurts and personally pains me that my career and other people’s careers have been soiled and their reputation damaged because of peddled falsehoods and lack of accurate information.

The information SFO relied on was incorrect. They did not bother to interview me yet they did interview agents in Somaliland and Ghana in which cases with the same threshold were not successful,” he said. “By the time Mr Oswago was being recruited as CEO, Smith was already printing by-election ballots for IIEC,” he added.

UNFOUNDED CLAIMS
Mr Oyombra, who has become the poster boy of the multimillion shilling scandal in which top officials at the IIEC and Knec allegedly received huge kickbacks to award tenders to a British company, questioned the anti-corruption body’s decision to recommend charges against him and three other persons only. In his first interview since the allegations emerged in 2014, Mr Oyombra, who was the local agent of UK security printing firm Smith & Ouzman, also claimed that the scandal is a creation of the media since there is no proof that he facilitated the bribes. “First, chickengate is a creation of the media. The charges in the UK did not in any way prove that bribery was committed. The charges read ‘agreeing to bribe’ and the prosecution in their documented submissions made it known that there was no proof that actual bribery did take place,” Mr Oyombra said in an interview facilitated by his lawyer Charles Kanjama.

According to the UK investigators, Mr Oyombra was a central player in the “chicken” scandal by virtue of being the Smith & Ouzman’s (S&O) agent in Kenya. He would negotiate the amount of bribes to be given to top IIEC and Knec officials by the British firm in exchange for lucrative tenders. The kickbacks would be channelled through his account at the KCB, disguised as his “commission”. So connected at both the electoral and examination bodies that he would receive, in advance, tender documents of S&O’s competitors and give directions on how they would be disqualified by the respective bodies’ tender committees, it was claimed.

On Saturday, Mr Oyombra said it would be preposterous to insinuate that he was the one who introduced S&O into Kenya. He said the UK firm started printing exams in 1967 under the defunct East African Exams Council, years before he was born. Printing of ballot papers for the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) that was disbanded after the contested 2007 General Election, on the other hand, started in 1992 when he was still in school. Besides Mr Oyombra, Mr Oswago has also come out to defend himself against EACC’s recommendations that he be charged.

Mr Oswago accused EACC of making the recommendations before taking complete statements from him, a claim the anti-corruption body has dismissed. On the other hand, Mr Oyombra said he has recorded and signed two statements with the EACC since the investigations started. Even though EACC has recommended four Kenyans to be charged for their alleged roles in the ‘chicken’ scandal, those who have been to Integrity House to record statements include defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) commissioners Davis Chirchir and Ken Nyaundi and deputy CEO Gladys Boss Shollei.

Story by Eddie Mwerekande/Muhabura.rw


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