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Onyango Oloo: Man in the eye of the storm

Onyango Oloo
Mr Onyango Oloo. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

From spending several days in police custody for graft allegations to being struck by an impeachment as Speaker of the Kisumu County Assembly, this week’s happenings will certainly register in the memory of George Onyango Oloo forever.

The trained lawyer’s tribulations heightened last week when he was arrested alongside 30 other people, among them Bobasi MP Innocent Obiri, for alleged involvement in the graft over the construction of the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) mall in Kisumu.

An affidavit filed in court showed that the initial project cost had been set at Sh2.45 billion but was later varied upwards to Sh3.86 billion. The final account submitted by Quantech Consultancy, a firm associated with MP Obiri, valued the final works at Sh4.1 billion.

The works were, however, later assessed by a team of experts from Public works who prepared a report dated March 2018 and valued it at Sh3,011,166,765. This meant the final account was overstated by Sh1,127,728,339.

Mr Oloo, who was then the LBDA Board chairman allegedly received a total of Sh15 million, from Erdermann Property Ltd as an inducement to facilitate the allocation of funds to LBDA, for the construction of phase 1 of the project.

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He was also accused of failing to disclose a private interest. The court heard that while knowing that he was a legal consultant for Erdermann and a purchaser of a property from the company, he failed to disclose the information to the board and went ahead to deliberate in the decisions and resolutions relating to the construction of the project.

Mr Oloo, together with former LBDA managing direction Mr Peter Aguko Abok allegedly charged the property to secure a loan for Sh1.4 billion in favour of Erdermann Property Ltd. According to the laws, they should have involved the concerned ministry and Treasury.

Court documents also show that Erdermann demanded 20 percent advance payment which the tender documents had clearly stated was not available. The 20 percent granted Erdermann permission to stop work if it was not paid.

The company further demanded a bank guarantee for future pay by directly mortgaging the project property and LBDA gave Erdermann the power of attorney. Later, the company changed financing from 100 percent to 80 percent and only on the construction cost component and it is alleged that it was given ample bonus, including the power to collect rental income and post contract real estate management.

The charges against the accused persons included failure to comply with procurement laws, engaging in a project without prior planning, abuse of office and corruptly receiving a benefit.

The court ordered Mr Oloo, Mr Obiri and Mr Abok, to deposit Sh10 million, each to secure their release.

And when Mr Oloo hoped for some relief after settling the bond terms, his attempts to resume work at the county assembly hit a snag. The former Secretary-General of the ruling, The National Alliance(TNA) party ran into a hostile crowd which included Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) who were opposed to his leadership.

The MCAs ganged up and ousted him. Defiant, Mr Oloo marched with his supporters towards the county assembly premises only to be met by another hostile crowd and heavily armed police personnel. Anti-riot police were later deployed to disperse the crowd.

The MCAs, however, barred Mr Oloo from accessing both the House and his offices saying that they had instructions from the party to block him from entering the assembly.

Mr Oloo maintained that he was still the substantive Speaker, saying his impeachment was unprocedural.

In impeaching him, the MCAs accused Mr Oloo of among other things, failing to conduct House business in a free and fair manner, favouritism and dividing the assembly, abuse of powers by suspending members arbitrarily and flouting public finance management laws that led to misuse of public funds.

“That he has failed to conduct the proceedings in a fair objective and impartial manner contrary to Article 73(2)(b) of the constitution, leading to favouritism hence hampering quality of debate and the proper exercise of legislative authority,” the motion presented in the Assembly read.

The MCAs accused him of “sharply dividing members” during house proceedings and “incompetence and obvious misunderstanding or otherwise deliberate misinterpretation and flouting of Standing Orders”.

They charged that he has on several occasions misled the House by invoking the speaker’s overriding discretion under Standing Orders.

“That he has on several occasions made rulings contrary to the resolutions of the House even on matters explicitly provided for in the same Standing Orders and other existing laws,” they added.

Mr Oloo, however maintained he was the bonafide Speaker and vowed to keep his job.

“I am still the Speaker and the actions the MCAs are engaged in could be challenged in court. They need to follow the right procedures even if they want to impeach me” he said.

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