EACC, DPP clash in court over withdrawal of charges against geothermal officials

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Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission CEO, Twalib Mbarak (left) and Director of Public Prosecutions, Renson Ingonga. PHOTOS | NMG

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have clashed for the second time in less than a week, over plans to drop charges against former government officials.

On Thursday, the anti-graft body opposed an application by the DPP seeking the withdrawal of charges against former officials of Geothermal Development Company (GDC), meaning that the two offices no longer read from the same script.

In the application, the EACC told trial magistrate Thomas Nzuki that the intended withdrawal of criminal charges by the DPP against Mr Nicholas Karuma, Mr Peter Ayodo Omenda and Mr Caleb Indiatsi was not made in the public interest or intended to prevent or avoid the abuse of the legal process.

On Friday last week, the EACC similarly opposed plans to drop abuse of office charges against former Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) managing director Charles Tanui, former KPC chief engineer Mr Josephat Kipkoech Sirma as well as Mr Elias Maina Karumi, a chief technical manager.

In the latest clash, the DPP through senior principal prosecution counsel Duncan Ondimu made an application to withdraw charges against the former tender committee members who alleged to have approved the tender of moving rigs at an inflated cost.

The officials were charged in 2015 alongside former managing director Silas Masinde Simiyu, GDC company secretary Praxidis Namoni Saisi and four other members of the company’s tender committee.

The EACC submitted that it was in the interest of justice that the matter proceeds to its logical conclusion on a priority basis as directed by the Supreme Court in a judgment in January last year.

“The grounds raised by the DPP for withdrawal of the charges specifically the aspect of the market survey had been canvassed in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court and the courts held that they are triable issues,” said Mr Hassan Muhamud an investigator in an affidavit filed in court.

The former officials were accused of illegally awarding a Sh42.7 million tender to Bonfide Clearing and Forwarding Ltd, at an inflated cost that was more than 100 percent increase from the previous year.

According to the DPP, a review of the evidence showed that there was insufficient evidence to confirm that the rig move price was exaggerated since it was not clear whether GDC conducted a market survey to establish the price.

“It is in the interest of justice and fair hearing that the instant application be allowed as prayed,” said Naomi Isoe, a prosecution counsel, in an affidavit.

The former officials had challenged their prosecution, arguing that the charges were based on a non-existent provision.  Their trial was put on hold for a while as the matter went to the Supreme Court.

The trial magistrate directed the EACC and DPP as well as defence lawyers to ready themselves for hearing of the application on March 4.

In opposing the withdrawal of the charges, EACC said the Supreme Court directed that the matter proceeds to finality and with all accused persons in the initial charge sheet.

The EACC submitted that therefore, all the grounds raised by DPP in seeking to withdraw the case are inconsequential.

The EACC maintained that investigation revealed that GDC procured rig move services at the Menengai site at an exaggerated cost of Sh42.7 million per rig move, as in the previous year, the price per rig move was Sh19.5 million.

The case against Mr Tanui and his co-accused has since been suspended, pending an appeal filed by the DPP’s office.

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