Mara Heist: How Citizen TV’s Asha Mwilu, Waihiga Mwaura landed the exclusive


Mara Heist: How Citizen TV's Asha Mwilu, Waihiga Mwaura landed the exclusive

At a university named after the world famous Maasai Mara Game Park in Narok, four employees grappled with a perturbing decision.

Expose top officials who were bleeding the institution dry or remain silent and lose whatever integrity they had left.

They chose to be whistleblowers: on August 9, 2019, one of them called Citizen TV.

Asha Mwilu and Waihiga Mwaura decided to look into the claims.

On August 13, the two senior journalists met with Spencer Sankale Ololchike, an accountant at the university.

Spencer revealed how he had directly handled the finances and how looting of public funds had turned one of Kenya’s youngest public universities into ‘a cartel of thieves’.

He would later confide in a friend: Stanley Yiaile, who corroborated the central role played by the VC’s driver, Noor.

In June 2017, Spencer was taken ill and replaced by John*, who spoke to Citizen TV on condition of anonymity.

HOW THEY BEAT CBK DIRECTIVE

He told us that to beat the directive by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) that requires explanations for bank transactions above Ksh. 1million, the cartel would draft split cheques.

The fourth whistleblower, Dr. Anthony Yiaile, confirmed that operations at the university have ground to a halt including at his Health Services Department.

In addition to Citizen TV’s analysis of the data presented, we reached out to Transparency International Kenya who in-turn tasked their forensic auditors to probe the evidence further.

Bank statements, reconciliation and general ledger extracts signalled a problem in the internal controls of the institution.

However, TI-Kenya said the information is not conclusive and a more in-depth analysis of the accounting system (ERP) in use and cash handling policies versus practice, is required.

QUERY AG’S OFFICE

We wanted to know how internal auditors and officers from the Auditor General’s office may have missed the inconsistencies in the university’s audit reports.

Citizen TV spoke to the outgoing Auditor General Edward Ouko on his last day in office, August 27, 2019 who said:

“We know the time the officer went, what they are doing and we anticipate an output. If they go there and cheat that is another matter.”

BRIBERY ATTEMPTS

With all the allegations and the damning evidence, we wanted to hear from the VC Prof. Mary Walingo, her driver Noor and the Finance Officer Mr. Okumu.

Immediately after our phone calls to the three, Spencer was summoned to the VC’s office and the conversation captured in our secret recording.

Meanwhile in Nairobi, another conduit had been sent our way: Prof. Walingo wanted an informal off the record meeting to negotiate. 

A supposed broker, a man who often passes himself as a journalist and cameraman in Narok reached out to us ostensibly to save the VC.

We rejected Wanyonyi’s overtures and made the only offer available on this assignment; a right of reply. 

Citizen TV then got word from the university that Prof. Walingo was giving us an appointment for Wednesday morning in Narok.

RIGHT OF REPLY FOR THE VC

Upon our arrival, Noor, the visibly influential driver of the VC, received us accompanied by the university’s marketing and legal teams.

However, it became apparent that meeting the VC was nowhere in their plans.

We were taken on a tour of the university’s botanical gardens, the lecture halls, the dorms… anything but that long awaited interview with the VC.

We left with no statement from the VC, driver, or the Finance Officer: the trio chose silence, threats, delayed tactics and attempts to compromise us.

Ironically, two days before the story was aired, a video of Prof. Walingo was posted on the university’s Facebook page confirming the allegations of fraud. She claimed that investigations have been ongoing.

On the same day, the four whistleblowers: Spencer, Stanley, Dr. Yiaile and John* officially presented themselves as key witnesses of the Mara heist.

Three of these men have applied for witness protection from the State.

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Story By Waihiga Mwaura And Asha Mwilu
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