When Geoffrey Mwangi filed a petition to quash charges of abuse of office and failure to follow procurement laws in July last year, he was not successful in his quest.
Then, High Court judge Esther Maina ruled that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Noordin Haji, knew that he had sufficient evidence to sustain the trial and if possible, get a conviction in the case against the former National Health Insurance (NHIF) chief executive officer.
Mr Mwangi held that it didn’t make sense to continue with the case against him when the DPP had dropped charges against the company and persons he was accused of conferring a benefit.
He also argued that sustaining the case and the decision to charge him was instigated by motives other than the interest of the public and to punish the corrupt.
Revenue collection system
That was about six months ago, soon after the DPP dropped charges against Web Tribe Ltd, a software development company that was engaged by the agency to instal a revenue collection system at the NHIF, alongside its directors Danson Muchemi and Robert Muriithi.
The company was tapped to instal an internally managed system, which would have cost between Sh400 million and Sh600 million.
The contract it signed was for offering a payment solution to the NHIF at a fee of between 4.0-4.5 percent of collections.
The NHIF eventually bought its own stand-alone system and JamboPay, which is owned by Web Tribe, would offer only technical support at a commission.
“The trial court is best suited to determine the issues of fact raised by counsel for the petitioner of course after hearing the evidence of the witnesses. The Constitution and criminal procedure code have provisions which jealously guard the right of an accused person to a fair trial and the petitioner need not fear,” the judge said.
Things would, however, take a new twist six months later as the DPP made an application to withdraw the charges against Mr Mwangi under section 87(a) of the criminal procedure code.
Five witnesses had already testified in the trial. It was the DPP’s argument that after reviewing the evidence, it was his considered view that it could not sustain the charges.
The former altar boy who grew up in Kamwaura, Molo Constituency in Nakuru County, said he knew he was innocent and the case would at some point collapse.
When he was presented in court in December 2018 together with former NHIF officials, including his predecessor Simon ole Kirgotty, to face the charges, it was not his first time in the corridors of justice.
About one month earlier, he was taken to court alongside then-finance director Wilbert Kurgat over claims of disobeying a court order.
The duo was accused of failing to comply with a court order requiring them to produce any documents asked by investigators, who were probing the alleged misappropriation of funds at the Fund.
In previous interviews Mr Mwangi recalled how he struggled through school as his parents were peasant farmers, getting introduced to Nairobi life in a one-room unit in Githurai in 1998 and rising through the ranks to become the NHIF chief executive in 2016.
His unceremonious removal from the corner office at the NHIF is akin to what befell his predecessors, save for Mr Kirgotty who completed his term and secured another plum job with the government.
Previous holders Adan A. Adan and Richard Kerich left the agency unceremoniously and the latter is still facing charges in court.
Mr Mwangi was appointed the NHIF boss in February 2016, after Mr Kirgotty’s term expired. Before he became the CEO, he was NHIF’s finance and investments manager.
It was the revenue collection system that would land him in trouble as the DPP accused him of engaging in a project without prior planning.
He was accused alongside Mr Kirgotty, Ruth Sudoi (manager of legal affairs) and Pamela Nyaboke Marendi (manager of procurement supplies).
The charges stated that he committed the offence when he was the general manager, of finance and investments.
They were accused of procuring the services of Web Tribe for integrated revenue collection services for Sh49.5 million.
The former CEO was also accused of failing to comply with the law relating to procurement by awarding the tender for revenue collection to Web Tribe and abuse of office by improperly conferring a benefit by authorising payment of Sh49.5 million to Webtribe in December 2014 and another payment of Sh125 million in February 2018 when he was now the CEO.
The prosecution claimed that he made more payments later, occasioning the loss of Sh200 million to NHIF.
Speaking to the Business Daily, his lawyer Migos Ogamba said the trial would have stopped long ago had the DPP supplied them with all the documents early enough because it would have been clear that there was no case against him.
Trial magistrate Victor Wakumile, while discharging Mr Mwangi, gave the DPP more time to consider the fate of other accused persons, in view of the withdrawal of the charges against Mr Mwangi.
“The court urges the DPP to review this case in its entirety to avoid a situation where there might be a violation of Article 157(11) with respect to the other accused person facing charges based on the same evidence,” the magistrate said.
Those still facing charges are Mr Kirgotty, NHIF audit committee members Mudzo Nzili, Yussuf Ibrahim and Elly Nyaim and 14 others.
Mr Mwangi now wants his job back.