How local agent helped British printing firm deliver bribes

An Interim Independent Electoral Commission’s training session for presiding officers to oversee the referendum in 2010. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Three-part exclusive report reveals anatomy of bribery ring that took cash payments from security printer.

UK printing firm Smith & Ouzman (S&O) used a local agent to bribe commissioners and management of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), helping the company to win seven lucrative contracts valued at £1.3 million (Sh192.7 million).

IIEC chairman Issack Hassan, suspended CEO James Oswago, Gladys Shollei, Energy minister Davis Chirchir, lawyer Ken Nyaundi, Edward Karisa and Kenneth Karani are among the individuals named in the bribery ring that allegedly pocketed a total of £337,993 (Sh49.3 million) in a span of two years.

The payments ensured that IIEC’s procurement process was compromised and prices of the tenders inflated with the taxpayers as the ultimate victims of the fraud.

S&O in October 2008 recruited Trevy James Oyombra as its agent in Kenya as it laid the groundwork for a bribery scheme that would see it win a series of contracts from the electoral body.

Mr Oyombra had worked with IIEC’s predecessor, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), and this suited his new job as a consultant for a UK firm which it was to furnish with insider information among other services.

Mr Oyombra himself earned £42,866 (Sh6 million) as agent fees, according to the court documents which details the controversial dealings of the UK firm.

“The agreement alleged by the prosecution between these defendants to make corrupt payments and the making of corrupt payments which followed made a nonsense of any attempt at competitive tendering on merit,” reads part of the court filings.

“S&O, of course, benefited by making a profit from those contracts to print materials. The corrupt payments were built into S&O’s price for printing the materials so that the inflation in the price as a result of that corruption was passed onto those funding the institutions which contracted with S&O.”

Inflated commission payments to Mr Oyombra were the main way that the multinational achieved its objective of making the payments to IIEC officials who could influence the outcome of the tender processes in its favour.

The corrupt IIEC officials gave Mr Oyombra access to S&O’s rival bids, helping the multinational to win the tenders that it would later inflate to support the payment of bribes described as “chicken.”

IIEC periodically procures electoral materials including ballot papers for use in presidential, national assembly and local government elections.

The seven contracts that S&O won illegally are dated 2010 or earlier, including  orders to supply ballot papers for the 2010 referendum, Shinyalu and Bomachoge by-elections and the voter registration cards.

In the referendum contract, for instance, Mr Trevy reported to S&O executives that he had discussed with Mr Oswago the level of bribes for the IIEC officials as Sh0.55 on each of the 14.6 million ballot papers.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.