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Kenya: Noordin Haji defends Sh5bn budget for anti-corruption war

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) requires about Sh5 billion in the next financial year to carry out reforms in the public sector as well as hire competent staff to help with the war against corruption.

Appearing before the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, DPP Noordin Haji and Public Prosecutions Secretary Dorcas Oduor said that the allocation was critical.

Mr Haji noted that the war against graft has been extended to all public officers and that recent arrests and prosecutions of persons including senior government officials and business people have has sent a strong message – that nobody is above the law.

“To succeed in the fight against corruption, institutions mandated with the fight must be strengthened so that all corruption suspects are brought to book in record time,” he said on Monday.

He also noted the need to instil good governance and recover corruptly acquired assets.

According to the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) currently before the National Assembly, the National Treasury has allocated the ODPP Sh3 billion in recurrent and development expenditure, against the requirement for Sh5 billion.

BREAKDOWN

To enhance the graft war, the DPP wants better remuneration of staff and the hiring of competent external prosecutors where expertise is required.

He also wants asset recovery expedited, witness facilitation, installation of technology to enhance electronic disclosure of documentary evidence, a review of existing laws, the purchase of extra vehicles and capacity building.

About Sh135 million is required to refurbish the former European Union (EU) offices in Upper Hill, where the ODPP will be operating from, as well as county offices.

Mr Haji is currently housed at the NSSF offices in the city’s Community area.

The facilitation of witnesses includes providing them with fare to attend court proceedings.

“Witnesses are not coming to court because they are not being facilitated, especially in rural areas where courts are very far. When they fail and the case stops or flops, the blame is always on the DPP,” Mr Haji said.

PLEA BARGAINS

Ms Oduor also noted that the ODPP has gazetted regulations on plea bargaining so suspects ready to plead guilty are either given lenient sentences or co-opted as part of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Without the regulations, the original sentence against such suspects lies with the court and not the ODPP, meaning that the DPP can only apply to the court to have charges stopped only if an individual cooperates.

In case the individual violates the agreement, the DPP can use his powers to restore the charges.

“We are looking at how we can make plea bargaining flexible. As long as the law is what it is, we will continue to take every suspect to court,” Ms Oduor said in response to why the DPP is keen to charge everyone, not enter into plea bargain arrangementS with suspects.

ASSET RECOVERY

Regarding asset recovery, Mr Haji said he was working with the Attorney-General to have a special fund established for monies recovered from foreign accounts as well as locally.

For instance, money paid by banks involved in shady dealings in the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal will be returned to the service.

Ms Oduor defended the arrest of suspects pending investigations, noting that it is difficult to get evidence with them in custody.

She said this enables investigators to get information required and limit the suspects from interfering with witnesses and evidence.

Mr Haji also defended cases currently in court saying he had enough evidence to mount successful prosecutions; he boasted of 22 convictions from 88 anti-corruption cases involving Sh16.8 billion.

There have been about 19 acquittals and three withdrawals, while 338 cases are ongoing.

By Daily Nation

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