Mara Heist: What happened to Spencer Sankale?
On September 1 this year, Citizen TV aired Mara Heist, one of most explosive corruption exposes in Kenya.
It illustrated the dark secrets of official corruption in this country but three months after the story aired, no suspect has been arrested or charged with any crime.
A team from Citizen TV revisited the Mara Heist in search of answers. Has anything changed since the damning report?
Has the heist come a halt or is it business as usual? What about the whistleblowers? Are they somewhere in a safe house or are they still worried about their safety?
It was perhaps one of the best documented corruption heists in Kenya’s history, complete with secret video recordings.
The witnesses of this brazen looting of public resources were ready to share all their evidence with authorities and risk everything to tell it all.
Spencer Sankale Ololchike was the key whistle-blower in the Mara Heist.
A certified accountant, Spencer recorded video, audio and document evidence of his boss and the then vice chancellor of Maasai Mara University Professor Mary Walingo systematically siphoning taxpayers’ money.
A follow-up team from Citizen TV met Spencer at his home and wanted to find out how the decision to become a whistle-blower changed his life.
“I have been okay, I have been at work actually but a lot of things have changed in my life. I can’t walk the way I used to walk. There is that threat and intimidation especially at work. It is mostly a security issue for me whenever I am out. I walk in the malls and most of the people recognize me. It is a kind of new way of living but it is something I was prepared for,” said Spencer.
Spencer told us that when he walls around the malls most people refer to him as Mara Heist something he said he has learnt to live for it.
“It was not for fame, not for anything else but just to make sure that the institution I work for is corruption free,” said Spencer.
When we first met Spencer and his colleagues from the university, all four men applied for witness protection from the state.
One of the four men had wanted his identity protected for safety purposes; in our story, we named him John.
His name is Wilberforce Kipruto Serem, the acting Deputy F.O. Maasai Mara University. During the Mara Heist he was code-named John.
“I am revealing my identity because everyone at the university knew who I was. I was code-named John. But now there is no need to hide anymore. I think Kenyans should know who I am,” said Serem.
Serem further narrated how after the story aired he went into hiding. He felt insecure and so he went home and hid for some time.
“When I came back to the university people were calling me John. We were heroes to the staff members. But to the sycophants of the ng’ombe kubwa, we were outcasts to them,” said Serem.
Even though the whistle-blowers applied for witness protection from the state, to date, they say they do not feel safe.
“We did apply but so far nothing has been heard from the Witness Protection Agency. What we have done is received support from TI, Amnesty international, ICPAK amongst others,” said Serem.
Serem added that every time he leaves the office in the evening going home, he feels like he being followed.
“I would hear rumours from my colleagues that the former VC, Ng’ombe Kubwa, was seen around Narok. I feel that I can be attacked every time,” said Serem.
Prof. Mary Walingo, her driver Abdi Noor Hassan took leave. Normal annual leave with full perks.
Mr. Anaclet Biket Okumu, the Finance Officer is still at the office and still a signatory to the accounts something the whistle-blowers term like a slap on their face.
They are all still earning full salaries.
“ A whole cartel that is working until now and is determined that my life and the other Kenyans who were very courageous and honest to come out and explain what happened. The threats are covert and overt. My immediate boss just got suspended. I know they are working there to eliminate first the boss then they come for us. If they decide that I don’t work for them in spite of letters from the DCI which they are disregarding… This is the corruption fighting back tactics,” said Spenser.
In mid-September, the university council appointed Professor Kitche Magak as acting Vice Chancellor.
The council also suspended the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs Professor Mohamed Abdille. This decision was however appealed by the DCI’s office who wrote to the Ministry of Education to explain that professor Abdille is a key witness.
“As we are speak we don’t have a medical cover but the council is planning a 1 week trip in Dubai. We are not seeing the austerity in the way they are governing the institution. These are courses that can take place at KSMS at 10% of the cost. It is like a hindrance to the progress of the institution by the same people who are meant to protect it,” said Spenser.
Spenser further revealed that DVC Abdille who is his boss, was asked to write letters to suspend the 4 whistle-blowers but he declined.
So far, the DPP is yet to prosecute any of the suspects while at the university, a state of uncertainty looms.
As the back and forth continues, Spencer Sankale and the acting Deputy Finance Officer at Maasai Mara University Wilberforce Kipruto Serem are left in limbo.
“I have not been able to notice any odd transactions because currently I don’t have any access to the systems. No duties. No office. I don’t know what is actually going on. Whether fishy transactions or things have gone the right way,” said Serem.
“Sometimes I feel like giving up. Because the slow process of the investigation. I would hear rumours that someone has been compromised. Nothing is being done. The investigation is taking too long. Sometimes I feel like moving out of the country. You hear money has been given to bribe someone. I want to resign. I sacrificed my life to whistle blow. But if nothing is being done then I feel like giving up,” he added.
On his part, Spenser however said that he does not regret blowing the whistle.
“I regret nothing. Even if today I had to do it again I would. Once you have taken a position you are to hold it in trust and not abuse it for personal gain. I would still blow the whistle on anyone abusing public funds,” said Spenser.
The question remains, has the system failed these Kenyans who put everything on the line to get out the truth?
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