Economy

How State roads engineer amassed Sh1.5bn in bribes

THIKA-ROAD-1609

Construction workers build a new bridge on Thika highway. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) raised the red flag on Mr Musila’s wealth on suspicion that he was a beneficiary of kickbacks from road contractors through an account at KCB Bank Kilifi branch.
  • He, however, denied the claims and rushed to court seeking to block the EACC from investigating the wealth he co-owned with his wife, alleging a violation of his rights.
  • Anti-Corruption Court judge Mumbi Ngugi on Wednesday dismissed Mr Musila’s petition and allowed the EACC to investigate the source of his wealth.

A senior official at a public roads agency has been found with assets in excess of Sh1.5 billion despite him earning a relative modest monthly salary of Sh390,000, triggering investigations into the source of his wealth.

Benson Muteti Musila, a regional manager of the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra), is required to explain how he acquired his vast wealth of 35 assets, including land and other real estate property in Nairobi, Makueni and Kilifi counties which are managed by his spouse, Zipporah Mwongeli.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) raised the red flag on Mr Musila’s wealth on suspicion that he was a beneficiary of kickbacks from road contractors through an account at KCB Bank Kilifi branch.

He, however, denied the claims and rushed to court seeking to block the EACC from investigating the wealth he co-owned with his wife, alleging a violation of his rights.

Anti-Corruption Court judge Mumbi Ngugi on Wednesday dismissed Mr Musila’s petition and allowed the EACC to investigate the source of his wealth.

“What the petitioners seek is to stop not only the investigations but, in the event that the EACC finds any evidence requiring the prosecution of the 1st petitioner (Mr Muteti), to pre-empt such prosecution by the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions),” the judge said.

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.

The judge added that Mr Musila failed to demonstrate a violation of his rights by the EACC’s investigators.

Following the nod by the court, the EACC is now set to resume investigating Mr Musila who is in-charge of Kerra’s operations in Kilifi and Mombasa.

When the EACC first raided Mr Musila’s home and office in Kilifi in 2018, they reportedly carted away a total of Sh2.06 million in cash.

The amount, he claimed, included Sh183,000 in personal money while the rest was from his employer for repairs of Baricho bridge in Kilifi.

A simultaneous raid at the suspect’s home in Nairobi’s Imara Daima estate reportedly netted Sh685,000 in cash from his wife. Part of the amount was found stashed in the wife’s handbag. She is said to have claimed the part of the confiscated amount was fees collected from three schools she had established in Makindu between July 2005 and May 2015.

Ms Mwongeli, a trained teacher, alleged that apart from running the schools, she operates a bakery, practises dairy farming as well as other businesses such as supply of school uniforms.

She further said she runs rental units known as Mumbe Villas and Mumbe Plaza, which earn her Sh300,000 and Sh350,000 monthly respectively.

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.

The EACC said multiple deposits had been made into Mr Musila’s KCB account. 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 funds in the KCB account were 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 said Mr Musila’s claims of earning Sh750,000 in monthly allowances could be false since it did not reflect in his returns filed with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

The anti-graft body said that it had already issued him with a notice requiring him to explain in writing the discrepancy between his net asserts and a cumulative income amounting to Sh648 million.

According to Mr Musila, his assets are worth about Sh100 million and not Sh1.5 billion as alleged by the EACC.

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.