On March 18 2014 the anti-corruption agency, EACC, received a report that the Elgeyo Marakwet County Assembly speaker one Albert Kipkogei Kochei pocketed travel allowances meant for an educational trip to the US he never attended.
This was the genesis of a case now before the high court in Nairobi where Kochei is challenging his prosecutionfor graft.
The trial court has been told that Ksh258,900 was banked in his account Number 1090299988900 at Equity bank, Iten branch, on August 8 2013.
Trip to USA
“There was a trip to Atlanta Georgia, USA, in which the petitioner/applicant(read Kochei) and 17 officials from the National Assembly and others from County assemblies were invited to attend from August 9 to 15 2013 and he was invited to attend…” an affidavit sworn and presented in court by EACC investigator Daniel Loomu reads.
They had been invited via a letter from the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The trip was organised by State University of New York(SUNY) under the auspices of the Kenya Parliamentary Strengthening Program.
Confusion in the type of Visa
The trial court heard that while Kochei was in Nairobi there was confusion in the type of Visa he had applied for…and by the time he was advised of the right type of visa to apply for, the process had delayed and the trip was therefore overtaken by events.
He was supposed to have returned the money within 48 hours.
“The petitioner actually did not travel to Atlanta Georgia as initially intended…he did not return the money or surrender it as required in law,” EACC contends.
Stayed with the money
EACC said Kochei later returned the money on March 18 2014 , some seven months and 10 days when he received a notice that he was being investigated for impropriety.
Suspended Elgeyo Marakwet county assembly speaker Albert Kochei follows proceedings in a Nairobi court”He stayed with the money, and failed to surrender within 48 hours as stipulated in the government financial regulations and procedures concerning management of imprest(allowances),” the anti corruption agency submits.
Further, the court heard, from the bank statement, the amount as was deposited in his bank account on august 8 2013 was NOT in the account throughout the period till March 18 2014.
“The bank statement further showed that he withdrew the money in bits and applied it or used it for private or personal purposes,” the EACC statement reads.
In his defence through Prof Tom Ojienda, the speaker states that administrative channels were by passed in pursuing his prosecution at an anti-corruption court in Eldoret.
Prof Ojienda told the court that the said cash was returned hence charging the speaker 2 years and five months later “smirked of malice.”
“The petitioner refunded the money on March 18 2014, on August 30 2015 a charge was preferred in court…this inordinate delay in bringing a prosecution in a matter that has been settled is evidence of abuse of office,” the lawyer submitted.
Ends of justice
Prof Ojienda wondered why a charge had been pressed against the suspect ” when a surrender had been made.
He said the criminal process was being (ab)used to “oppress public officers.”
However, EACC maintains that the petitioner had “not demonstrated that the criminal proceedings against him were not instituted to meet the ends of justice but other ulterior motives as alleged.”
Judgement is on June 8 2017.