Mr Riziki Matano, head of supply chain management in Kilifi County, was arrested by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) officials in Malindi on March 13, 2015 for allegedly soliciting a bribe from Mr Stephen Sanga Barawa to facilitate the award of a tender. Mr Matano was subsequently charged at the chief magistrate’s anti-corruption court in Malindi and was suspended from his job.
However, he moved to the High Court and challenged the decision by EACC to charge him on March 18, 2015. Justice Said Chitembwe issued temporarily orders stopping his prosecution at the magistrate’s court.
The Judiciary is in the spotlight after a Kilifi county government officer charged with bribery obtained court orders stopping his prosecution, but now faces separate investigations over an alleged Sh142 million scandal that took place after a judge temporarily stopped the first case.
This enabled Mr Matano to report back to work, but he is facing fresh questions from EACC over the payment of Sh142 million, which happened before the judge dismissed his application and reinstated the case at the magistrate’s court on June 14 this year.
“It is true that prosecutorial powers can be abused. But where the court is satisfied that no constitutional rights have been violated, the prosecution ought to be sanctioned to proceed,” the judge noted.
EACC says the alleged scandal took place during the intervening period when the case was in the High Court for constitutional interpretation, with Mr Matano back to work. According to EACC commission secretary Halakhe Waqo, Mr Matano is alleged to have made 40 payments to two companies.
Grand Top Solution Ltd was paid 112,687,955.65. In a curious incident, the company, which was upgrading a data centre and a cyber-room in the county, apparently got identical amounts of Sh8,724,137.05 last year on July 1 and September 23, as part of the total money it received.
Mediscope Agencies, which was supplying treated nets, received Sh29,975,962.10 on diverse dates. Incidentally, as part of the total money, it was debited with identical amounts of Sh8,820,000 on July 3, September 24 and September 20 last year.
While confirming that Mr Matano is under new investigation, Mr Waqo said the delay in the High Court decision, delivered more than a year after it was filed, may have contributed to more corruption taking place.
“We are investigating these new allegations. But remember, the said man obtained court orders stopping our initial bribery charges only for the High Court to agree with us that it was proper to charge him,” he said. “We do not want a situation where the High Court stops cases at the anti-corruption court. We hope the new rules by the Chief Justice will cure this.”
This week, Chief Justice David Maraga issued new rules to streamline the handling of anti-corruption cases. He directed all applications challenging corruption charges to be heard only by the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court. He said this would speed up hearing of applications filed by suspects facing corruption charges.
The new rules, which were published in a gazette notice, require all urgent applications to be fast tracked, heard and determined within 60 days, and all other applications to be dealt within 90 days.
Back to the bribery case against Mr Matano: Mr Barawa, who had tipped EACC after allegedly being asked to pay a bribe, now wants to quit as a witness.