Thursday, July 17, 2008



Daily Nation
July 17, 2008

Cabinet minister Otieno Kajwang’ has been summoned for questioning over corruption reports at the Immigration department.

Mr Kajwang’, permanent secretary Emmanuel Kisombe and Immigration Services director Joseph Ndathi, are required to appear before the parliamentary committee on National Security on Friday. The committee is chaired by Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi, who confirmed on Wednesday that his team had indeed summoned the minister and other key officials.

The summons came in the wake of revelations that the minister’s secretary, Ms Risper Omollo, had also been questioned by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to shed more light on the issue involving the issuance of work permits and Kenyan passports to foreigners of questionable backgrounds and qualifications.

Mr Kajwang’s secretary was summoned on Monday and grilled for about two hours. His personal assistant, Mr C.A. Onyango, who deals with Immigration matters, has also been summoned to Integrity Centre, the KACC headquarters, for questioning over reports that some foreigners allegedly paid their way into the country.

Sources close to the investigations told the Nation that Mr Onyango would have been questioned by the anti-corruption team on Tuesday but the session was postponed to Thursday. The sources further said that the minister was likely to be summoned should junior officers at the Immigration ministry mention him adversely.

Detectives are also investigating other people outside the Immigration department who are accused of acting on behalf of Government officials at Nyayo House to solicit bribes from applicants.

Anti-corruption investigators have so far established that brokers, some of who are not civil servants, had access to confidential information provided to the Immigration by applicants and used it to demand bribes. Only a few Immigration officials are privy to such information – names and contacts of applicants.

Last week, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission wrote to Mr Kisombe asking him to advise the minister’s personal assistant and secretary that they were required at Integrity Centre over the ongoing investigation.

The investigations were sparked by the arrest of a suspect on July 2. The suspect had in his possession an original work permit and was arrested as he exchanged it for Sh120,000 with a businessman who had applied to have an Indian citizen allowed to work for him in Kenya.

Investigations showed the broker had direct links to Immigration offices. Detectives are pursuing more clues before either arresting or prosecuting the corrupt officials.

Colossal sums

Sources also revealed that detectives were seeking to establish the circumstances under which information privy to only a few officials was leaked to outsiders. They suspect that colossal sums of money had been changing hands in the underhand deals at Nyayo House over the issuance of the work permits.

Most of the foreigners who have bribed immigration officials are of Asian origin and have business interests in the country.

On July 4, the anti-graft detectives visited Nyayo House and collected documents they believe contained information vital to their investigation. Since then, more detectives have moved to the Immigration ministry’s headquarters as they widened their investigations.

The Nation also learnt that unsuspecting foreigners who applied for the permits had received calls offering to exert influence so that their applications could be approved or speeded up. Detectives established that the calls were made by a broker after obtaining the contact details from application forms at Nyayo House.

Mr Kajwang’ has personally approved several work permits against the advice of his technical officers.

Both cases

Only last month, he approved work permits for a foreign welder and a salesman against the advice of senior immigration officials, including the director of Immigration Services.

Mr Ndathi had opposed the issuance of the work permits, arguing that there were enough Kenyans with the skills and there was no need to allow the foreigners to work in Kenya. In both cases, Mr Kajwang’ responded: “I have noted the comments of DIS. I have interviewed the applicant. I hereby grant a further two years work permit.”

The minister had earlier given similar permits to eight members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints under unclear circumstances. But he has denied any wrongdoing saying he has always acted within the law. He has also denied that he was involved in corrupt deals.

Immigration law stipulates that a foreigner can only be granted a work permit if they offer skills that cannot be found locally.