Economy

Civil servant found with half a billion in 4 banks

EACC

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

BDgeneric_logo

Summary

  • A senior official at a public roads agency risks losing half a billion shillings stashed in 22 bank accounts, 27 properties, shares in multiple companies and schools.
  • The anti-graft agency has applied for the seizure and forfeiture of the assets by Benson Muteti Musila, a regional manager at the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA).

A senior official at a public roads agency risks losing half a billion shillings stashed in 22 bank accounts, 27 properties, shares in multiple companies and schools linked to kickbacks from contractors to the State.

The anti-graft agency has applied for the seizure and forfeiture of the assets by Benson Muteti Musila, a regional manager at the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA), saying they are part of unexplained wealth worth Sh952.3 million.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) was initially targeting more than Sh1.03 billion but Mr Musila satisfactorily explained properties with a cumulative value of Sh78.7 million.

The EACC says the bank accounts and the real estate property in Nairobi, Makueni and Kilifi counties could not have been built by his monthly salary of Sh390,000, arguing that he was a beneficiary of kickbacks from road contractors.

“The commission pursuant to Section 55(2) of ACECA has instituted a suit seeking forfeiture of the above stated assets of Sh952,363,824.99 which were acquired at a time the Respondents were reasonably suspected of corruption or economic crimes,” the petition stated.

Mr Muteti was accused of getting kickbacks from contractors and also awarded State tenders to a company associated with his brother. The vast properties are managed by his spouse, Zipporah Mwongeli.

The public servant amassed the wealth between February 2009 and December 2018 where his pay, according to court documents, would have totalled to Sh136 million for the 119 months.

Anti-Corruption Court judge Mumbi Ngugi in October last year dismissed Mr Musila’s petition to freeze a probe of the properties and allowed the EACC to investigate the source of his wealth.

Justice Ngugi said it was in the public interest that the investigative bodies are allowed to carry out their mandates without interference, adding that there must be very clear and cogent reasons for the court to interfere with the exercise of their powers.

She added that Mr Musila failed to demonstrate a violation of his rights by the EACC’s detectives, triggering investigation on Mr Musila who is in-charge of Kerra’s operations in Kilifi and Mombasa.

The EACC said multiple deposits had been made into Mr Musila’s 21 KCB bank accounts and an account each at Cooperative Bank, NBK and Absa Bank.

The accounts held Sh567.63 million in a country where a about 97.59 percent or 69.88 million accounts hold less than Sh100,000, offering a sneak peek into Kenya’s growing income inequality where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small segment of the population. The anti-graft agency suspects the deposits were from contractors either seeking favours or paying back for jobs already awarded.

Mr Musila, however, maintained that the banks held cash meant to pay staff and finance general office administration.

He said that being the regional manager, his salary coupled with supervisory allowances of not less than Sh750,000 a month meant that he would take home about Sh1.14 million, much of which he invested in business.

The EACC dismissed Mr Musila’s claims of earning Sh750,000 in monthly allowances, arguing the pay did not reflect in his returns filed with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

The anti-graft body says after receiving payments from KeRRA, Skai (Kenya) Ltd, associated with Mr Musila’s brother, would electronically transfer the money to Mumbe Junior Academy’s accounts, Mumbe Girls and Mumbe Hardware, all of which are run by the couple.

“The commission has completed investigations and established that in the period of interest the 1st respondent (Mr Musila) exploited his official position of trust in the public service during his employ at KeRRA for private gain by involving himself in transactions that were in conflict with public interest,” the EACC said.

The properties targeted from Mr Musila and his wife include seven apartments, eight commercial and residential plots, two schools -- Mumbe Junior Academy and Mumbe Girls High School -- as well as shares worth Sh2.24 million, four vehicles and a hardware worth Sh41 million.

The apartments are scattered in Nairobi’s Kariobangi, Dandora, Mathare North and Imara Daima together with parcels of land -- both agricultural and empty plots --including in high-end Karen earmarked for development. The apartments and land are worth Sh241.6 million.

Mr Musila previously worked for Ministry of Public Works after graduating from the University of Nairobi in 1993. He had also worked as the roads engineer Bungoma, and a district works officer and regional manager Makueni.

According to filings in court, the couple also runs a hardware store in Makindu, Makueni and Ruaraka in Nairobi, while their son runs a construction firm known as Mumbe Construction.

Mumbe Construction is also at the heart of investigations by the EACC, which claims the firm unduly benefited from contracts in Kilifi and Mombasa counties, an assertion Mr Musila denied.