Former Tourism CS Najib Balala arrested

Detectives from the anti-graft agency Thursday arrested former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.

The arrest follows allegations that the Tourism Fund fraudulently paid Sh8.5 billion to set up the Coast branch of Kenya Utalii College (later renamed Ronald Ngala Utalii College) at the time he was a CS.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) spokesperson Eric Ngumbi said Balala will be flown to Mombasa from Nairobi and later driven to a Malindi court. 

The former minister was arrested alongside three others including Leah Adda Gwiyo, the former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, and Joseph Odero of West Consult Engineers.

“They will be flown to Malindi to face charges there after the prosecution approved our recommendations,” said Ngumbi.

Ngumbi said the individuals were apprehended in connection to the payment of Sh8.5 billion meant for the construction of Kenya Utalii College in Kilifi.

“Investigations were undertaken by the commission regarding the payment of Sh8.5 billion by the Tourism Fund out of which Sh4 billion was paid to a company for consultancy services for the proposed Ronald Ngala Utalii College in Vipingo, Kilifi county,” Ngumbi said.

“Upon conclusion of the investigations, EACC submitted the investigation report to the DPP, and the DPP concurred with the recommendations to apprehend and charge 16 persons.”

Detectives were searching for more suspects in the case.

The suspects are facing ten counts of corruption and economic crimes, including procurement fraud and misappropriation of Sh8.5 billion of public funds, EACC said.

They were arrested on Thursday night and spent the night at Kilimani police cells ahead of arraignment.

EACC has been on the radar of senior officials who previously served in the tourism ministry, which was led at the time by Balala, his then-PS Leah Gwiyo, and the former Tourism Fund CEO, among others.

According to the EACC, the Tourism Fund illegally paid Sh8.5 billion for the setting up of a satellite Utalii College in the coast region.

The Sh 8.5 billion resulted from an increase in the cost of establishing the branch from Sh1.95 billion to Sh10.4 billion, EACC said.

According to the EACC, the construction of the college in Vipingo was approved for Sh1.948 billion in a cabinet memo signed by Balala on May 22, 2007, and his finance counterpart on August 20, 2007.

EACC’s probe revealed how some private consultants were contracted by the tourism fund to come up with architectural designs and drawings of the college and to supervise the main contractor.

The drawings and designs were approved for Sh8.6 billion.

The tender for the construction of the Kenya Utalii College’s coast branch, later renamed Ronald Ngala Utalii College, was awarded in May 2013 for Sh8.9 billion, compared to the approved cabinet amount of Sh1.948 billion.

EACC recommended the prosecution of Balala, the former PS, the former CEO of the catering tourism and development levy trustees, the procurement manager of the catering tourism and development levy trustees, Baseline Architects, Rebman Malala t/a Ujenzi consultants, Armitech consulting engineers, and members of the Tender Committee.

The EACC recommended five counts of willful failure to comply with procurement laws, as read in conjunction with the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act 2003, four counts of unlawful acquisition of public property, and one count of abuse of office.

The CEO of the catering tourism and development levy trustees, members of the tender committee, the sole proprietor of Ujenzi Consultants, the directors of Mulji Devraj, and the brothers face additional charges that include one count of deceiving principal in violation of the law.

According to investigations, Rea Vipingo Company Limited donated the land on which the college was to be built.

Source: The Star

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