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DCI probes how Sh5.6 billion disappeared from eCitizen

By Mkarimu team

ANOTHER MULTI-BILLION SCANDAL?

In Summary

• Preliminary information points to a well-choreographed theft scheme by some Treasury officials, well-connected politicians and top KRA officials.

• Most government operations have been centralised and all payments from those seeking state services are channelled through the eCitizen platform.

Mombasa residents wait to be served at a Huduma Centre.Image: COURTESY

The Star on Friday reported the Directorate of Criminal Investigations around high-flying Treasury officials and directors of two firms implicated in the Sh5.6 billion eCitizen scandal.

According to Star, the DCI has launched investigations into the controversial online payments portal, in a major probe that could turn the spotlight on powerful government officials.

“We have started investigations and will keep Kenyans informed of the progress as we move on,” a senior DCI officer familiar with the investigations told the Star on Thursday.

The officer said that preliminary information points to a well-choreographed theft scheme by some Treasury officials, well-connected politicians and top KRA officials.

The DCI wants to unravel how the Sh5.6 billion mysteriously disappeared from the eCitizen pay bill account, which was being managed by a local firm allegedly contracted to collect payments from Kenyans seeking government services.

It is understood the money could not be traced after the Court barred Goldrock Capital limited from operating the account that was receiving millions per day from Kenyans applying for various services.

While the DCI will cast a wide net to establish how the billions disappeared ‘into thin air’, detectives would also be keen to find the nexus between top Treasury officials and the firms at the centre of the missing cash.

“What we are looking at is a fraud scheme orchestrated by government employees as well as a network of other senior figures.”

DCI official

It is not clear how Goldrock Capital Limited, a private firm, allegedly took over the role of the Kenya Revenue Authority by receiving billions of shillings from Kenyans without any approval from the Treasury.

The KRA is the primary agency authorised by law to collect revenue for the government and any other agency would require Parliament’s approval or appointment by the Treasury.

The Treasury has denied authorising the private firm to collect money on behalf of the government.

Most government operations have been centralised and all payments from those seeking state services are channelled through the eCitizen platform.

For instance, application for a three-year driving license renewal costs Sh1,400, while a one-year license goes for Sh600. The NTSA then charges a mandatory Sh50 convenience fee in addition to the renewal charges.

Application for a certificate of good conduct from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations costs Sh1,050 inclusive of charges.

With thousands of Kenyans applying daily for such documents, eCitizen could be collecting millions of shillings per day, making it one of the country’s biggest single-revenue generation platforms.

The eCitizen is an online platform, through which the government provides essential services such as applications for passports, driving licences, business registration, motor vehicle logbooks and title deeds.

The detectives would also seek to establish the recipient of Sh50, a convenience fee charged on each transaction made through the platform.

With thousands of transactions done in a day, a ‘faceless’ personality — whom the DCI would be interested to unmask — could have been pocketing millions of shillings in fee charge commission.

Several ministries, counties and government agencies use the platform to receive payments for their services to Kenyans with a convenience fee of Sh50 charged for each transaction.

Goldrock had in June 2017 sued the National Treasury for denying it access to the platform’s M-Pesa pay bill number that receives billions of shillings from individuals seeking government services through the online portal.

In fresh affidavits, the firm saysIn response, PS Thugge had stated in court documents that the government did not authorise any private firm to receive eCitizen payments on its behalf.

Thugge said the Treasury only authorised Webmasters Kenya to train government officers to handle the portal. He said any contract to hire a firm to collect revenue was null and void.

Thugge said in his response, “I am aware that Goldrock Capital is not authorised by the National Treasury CS to collect revenue for and on behalf of the government.”

Meanwhile, the DCI has forwarded the dams investigation file to Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.

He is expected to recommend any time soon the prosecution of senior government officials alleged to have benefitted from the Sh21 billion scam.

Part of the money is said to have been released as a downpayment to CMC di Ravenna – the broke Italian firm – for the construction of the Arror and Kimwarer dams in Elgeyo Marakwet.

Source:Star