NYS scandal: PS Omollo enjoying five-star treatment at KNH penthouse
Youth Affairs Principal Secretary Lilian Mbogo-Omollo on Wednesday had a rich breakfast: Fish fingers and a choice of tea or cocoa, brown or white bread with margarine, jam, marmalade, wimbi porridge, and cereals.
For lunch, beef stew, vegetable rice, chapati and a fruit platter were on the menu, while buttered rice with fried fish, washed down with fruit juice, was served for dinner. Also on the menu were ugali balls, bean stew, and vegetables.
This is a far cry from the prison staple of weevil-infested, half-cooked ugali and gruel, with a few beans and limp vegetables floating in it.
From the corner window of her VIP penthouse room atop Kenyatta National Hospital, Ms Omollo had soothing views of the Nairobi National Park in the distance. Outside her room, three guards from Kenya Prisons sat in a spotlessly clean corridor.
The guards were here ostensibly to keep her in, although her life is hardly any hardship in what is more of a luxury hotel than a hospital ward. Only visitors who produced letters of authorisation from God-knows-who were allowed in.
Ms Omollo was remanded nine days ago over the Sh9 billion scandal at the National Youth Service. She was rushed to hospital last Tuesday after allegedly falling ill and fainting in court.
Medical staff, speaking on condition of anonymity because of professional discretion, were amused by our enquiries on Ms Omollo’s health because, they said, on the night she was wheeled in, they conducted a battery of tests and found her to be in good health.
“We did several tests on her, including an echocardiogram, and they all turned okay,” said one medical worker. An echocardiogram test is recommended for patients who show symptoms of heart ailments, and the source on Wednesday said Ms Omollo’s heart is “as healthy as that of a baby”.
SHE’S GENERALLY HEALTHY
Another source said that, while Ms Omollo is generally healthy, she has been complaining of a stomach ailment.
As she whiles away the time on her 10th floor corner room, her co-accused are reportedly being held at Industrial Area Remand Prison and Lang’ata Women’s Prison — for men and women, respectively.
She, alongside 42 other suspects, faces multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit economic crimes, failure to comply with the law regarding protection of public funds, and abuse of office.
Ms Omollo is generally entitled to bail, and the decision not to allow it but instead hold her in relative comfort deals a serious blow to the seriousness of the government’s promise to finally crack down on the theft of public resources.
It bears an eerie resemblance to the deceptive crackdown on Goldenberg architect Kamlesh Pattni a decade ago. Mr Pattni, with a lot more drama, faked illness — complete with public fainting — and stayed in hospital for extended periods. He was never punished for the loss of billions of shillings 26 years ago.
JUST FOR THE CAMERAS
In a more outrageous anti-corruption pantomime two years ago, Ms Josephine Kabura, one of the key suspects in the Sh791 million scandal also involving NYS, revealed how she had been promised impunity and would only be paraded through the judicial system just for the cameras.
Ms Kabura, in her affidavit, said the then Cabinet Secretary for Devolution, Ms Anne Waiguru, had assisted her to secure other contracts worth more than Sh400 million, and had promised her a soft landing should the police come for her.
“CS Waiguru informed me that my name would be included on the charge sheet with my three companies, but since there was delivery of works and genuine documentation with processes, she assured me that only ‘funny’ charges would be preferred against me,” Ms Kabura said.
Ms Waiguru, however, dismissed her as a “crazy woman” who had cooked up a fantastic story, and whom she had never met.
AROMA OF FRIED BEEF
At KNH on Wednesday, the cacophonic frenzy of patients mixing with harried relatives and the dank air of the lower floors gave way to the inviting aroma of fried beef and fish the minute one stepped out of the elevator on 10th floor. A kitchen dedicated to the dietary needs of VIPs is located here.
Behind a huge wooden door at the end of a brightly lit corridor with the words ‘VIP Room’ printed in black on red, Ms Omollo whiled away the day, receiving visitor after visitor and following the news of the day on TV.
Lawyers have argued in court for her and her co-accused to be granted bail, but on Tuesday this week lost the argument when a Nairobi court ruled that the suspects will be remanded for the duration of the hearing.
Terming the charges “worse than murder”, Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti said that, in deciding a matter on bail, one should look at the nature of the offence, the rights and fundamental freedoms of an individual, the need to ensure that their right to enjoy their fundamental freedoms is not infringed, as well as the limitations to such rights and freedoms.
“Does equality to law mean the same thing as equity before the law?” he posed. “The accused persons are people of different means, but they face a joint charge. Can the bail terms be staggered without being deemed discriminative?”
Ms Omollo’s former boss and Cabinet Secretary, Ms Sicily Kariuki, is in office at the Ministry of Health and refuses to answer press questions about the scandal, even though she had promised to seal loopholes.
To the Nation’s best knowledge, neither has Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji ordered investigations into her conduct, nor has Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti initiated them of his own volition.
Unlike Ms Omollo and NYS director-general Richard Ndubai, she appears not to have offered to step aside, neither does she seem to have been requested to do so.
It gives the government’s oft-repeated tough language on corruption a distinctly hollow ring.