Hefty fines on cemetery land saga an indication corruption does not pay

The conviction and mandatory jail terms on a procurement director and a private surveyor over the irregular purchase of public cemetery land sends a strong message to corrupt individuals that corruption would soon be an expensive venture in Kenya.

The judgment imposing a total fine of Sh.77 million on the two accused demonstrates that all is not lost in the fight against corruption. The fine is by no means a small amount and painful for the two individuals.

The two, Boniface Okerosi Misera, a former Director of Procurement at the Ministry of Local Government and the surveyor, Cephas Kamande Mwaura, will serve a mandatory jail term of two years in addition to the millions in fines imposed on them.

Misera was fined Sh. 40 million which is four times what he acquired fraudulently while Mwaura would pay Sh. 37.2 million being four times the Sh 9.3million he defrauded the Government. They face a one-year jail term in default each should they fail to pay the fine.

The decision by the trial magistrate to impose a mandatory jail term and heavy fines is also a signal that the fight against corruption is moving in the right direction.

The two accused convicted by Anti-Corruption Magistrate, Felix Kombo were both found guilty of fraudulently acquiring Sh.19 million being part of the Sh. 283 million meant for purchase of the public cemetery.

The scandal over the purchase the purchase of 120-acre cemetery land at an inflated price of Sh.283million broke seven years ago prompting Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to conduct investigations.

Investigations into the allegations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) led to four individuals being charged with corruption related offences over the purchase of the land.

The four, Geoffrey Odhiambo Majiwa � former Nairobi Mayor, Geoffrey Charo Katsoleh � former deputy Nairobi Town Clerk, Boniface Okerosi Misera � former Director of Procurement at Ministry of Local Government and Cephas Kamande Mwaura, a private surveyor.

Majiwa and Mr. Katsoleh were acquitted upon the conclusion of the prosecution case for lack of sufficient evidence against them.

The scandal revolved around sale of 120 acres in Machakos offered by M/S NaemRech Ltd to the City Council of Nairobi at a cost of Sh. 283 million to serve as a cemetery.

Through a tender Committee, the Nairobi City Council decided to buy 120 acres offered by M/S NaemRech Ltd at Sh.283, 200,000, that is at Sh.2.4 million an acre, when the owner had offered it at Sh.400,000 an acre.

Investigations by EACC revealed that the price was far above the prevailing market rates of land in a similar location. All the suspects were charged in court between April and October 2010 and released on bond.

The conclusion of the case after eight years is an indication that corruption cases, however long they take, justice is eventually served to the public whose resources were embezzled.

How did the matter commence? The matter was reported to the Commission on 21st January 2009 and the Commission commenced investigations and collection of documentary evidence from around March 3, 2009. EACC investigators unveiled documentary evidence including an intricate web of money transfers to the accused through proxies.

The City Council had embarked on acquisition of a new cemetery in Athi River, in Machakos District, following increased demand for burial space on Lang’ata cemetry, which had attained its full capacity.

Halake Wako is the Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission

Source: Kenya News Agency