On April 6 2010, Daniel Charles MacOmbogo, a casual worker at the Ndori-Owimbi-Luanda Kotieno Road Project in Kisumu county turned to the ministry of Roads headquarters in Nairobi to do what he thought was desired of a responsible citizen.
MacOmbogo had travelled all the way from western Kenya to blow the whistle on perceived malpractices at a multimillion-shilling road construction project, the Ndori-Owimbi-Lwanda Kotieno road project, under the supervision of Paul Onalo, the resident engineer.
Onalo is currently based at Kenha, Barabara Plaza, Nairobi headquarters.
MacOmbogo duly got then permanent secretary Michael Kamau’s audience and reported his concerns over a raft of malpractices allegedly presided over by the resident engineer, ranging from abuse of office, fraud, conflict of interest and arbitrary corruption.The current CS in the ministry is James Macharia with principal secretary Esther Koimett.
To start with, it was reported that Onalo irregularly conferred benefit to himself by way of ghost workers, effectively minting millions in phantom payment of salaries and wages, over the period of the project, May 2002 to June 2010.
Apart from the ghostworkers’ millions, the resident engineer is said to have arbitrarily been using official vehicles at his disposal to ferry smuggled supplies to his Koru and Kisumu homes.
As if that was not enough, Onalo reportedly forced his way to get his private firm, Headcom Civil Engineering Construction, to do concrete works on the road project not to mention the stabilisation of the same course on the one hand, and resealing of the Kisumu-Yala- Busia road on the other.
More curiously, all staff payments were allegedly channeled through the resident engineer’s account, raising eyebrows on the motives and dealings. Then there was this small matter of accumulated workers’ 250 hours a month overtime payment – in their millions – reportedly being ‘sat on’ by Onalo despite having been long duly released by the contractor, Put Sarajevo Engineering.
Satisfied that he had executed a public citizen duty, the whistle blower returned to his work station in Kisumu an upbeat man. By May 10, MacObondo and his workmates had moved over to the Bondo-Siaya-Rang’ala road projects, this time round with a different contractor.
MacObondo and team were casual employees of the ministry of Roads, but not hired by the contractors, a matter that would later feature prominently in a subsequent court case. Barely three days later – on May 13 2010 MacObondo received his marching orders, dismissed verbally for “asking for Sh200,000 from the boss”.
This was in apparent response to the whistleblower’s earlier petition to the resident engineer to pay him Sh200,000 against the pending overtime dues to enable him take care of his ailing wife’s medical needs, which Onalo flatly turned down. MacObogo’s wife later succumbed to her undisclosed condition at the Russia Hospital in Kisumu.
But little did he contemplate what awaited him. Barely two days on, he was transferred to Bondo before being summarily dismissed on May 13 – verbally for that matter. This marked the beginning of MacOmbogo’s struggles with the harsh realities of elusive justice typical of Kenya’s public service.