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Atwoli's signature was 'forged' in KES 115M fraud case

15 April 2014, 14:40 William Korir

Nairobi - COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli yesterday said that an “alien account” in the name of helping HIV/AIDS victims and pregnant mothers was used to defraud the workers body KES 115 million.

Mr Atwoli was testifying in a case where its former Treasurer General Mr Cornel Ogutu and the HIV/AIDS program coordinator Ms Millicent Ngeso have been accused of defrauding the union KES 115 million.

“The two accused were employees of COTU and they initiated a plan allegedly meant to help members who were affected by HIV/AIDS and pregnant mothers but turned to be the ones benefiting from the money allocated to fund the project,” Mr Atwoli said.

He added that the two, Mr Ogutu and Ms Ngeso were given the full support by the union to commence the project but instead opened a parallel account alongside the main one where they were siphoning cash directed to run the main account.

“This account was illegal because it was not authorized or introduced to members of the board and was operational since 2002. We never knew of its existence,” Mr Atwoli said.   

According to Atwoli, the former treasurer general opened two bank accounts one at Barclays Bank of Kenya, Queensway branch in Nairobi and another at Kenya Commercial bank with similar preferences.

COTU only accented to the one at KCB but the other one at Barclays was hidden knowledge from the board. The accounts that finance various projects are only run by KCB not any other bank. 

He said that Mr Ogutu was given a warning letter by the Chairman General of Cotu urging him to refrain from getting involved in dubious money deals which would defeat the mandate of his office but conceitedly continued to involve himself.

“You never come to the office… you are literary signing cheques from this organization in the streets,” Mr Atwoli read the letter from the board.

After allegations of fraud were raised against the former treasurer general of Cotu, the board took initiative by a letter dated April 2 2013 summoning Mr Ogutu to explain the genesis of the various malpractices but “he defiantly declined to appear before the board.”

Mr Atwoli alleged that Mr Ogutu continued to use the name of the late chairman Mr Rajab Mwondi as a signatory to the account till 2013 when he was arrested.

“Ogutu forged my signature and the late chairman Mr Mwondi’s signature as signatories to the account. He was withdrawing money in our names,” Cotu secretary general said.

He added that Mr Mwondi died in 2003 but according to various cheques produced as exhibits in court “Mr Mwondi was still authorizing the withdrawals even in 2013.”

The Cotu secretary general said that the time the cheques were banked in Nairobi he was in Geneva Switzerland conducting business on behalf of trade unions.

“Ms Ngeso was a signatory to the account as she was the overall coordinator of the account. She too received cheques from the Barclays bank account,” Mr Atwoli said.

According to Atwoli, Ms Ngeso automatically became a signatory to the HIV/AIDS and child labour account by the virtue that she was the head of the project mandated to oversee all the operations relating to the welfare of the project.

“She knew the existence of such an account but never uttered a word about it,” he said.

The two Mr Ogutu and Ms Ngeso, were arrested on June 13 and August 7 2013 respectively after Cotu put their pictures, IDs and names in the local dailies and requested for any persons with information that could lead to their apprehension be availed.

The case continues on April 23 for the defence cross-examination of Mr Atwoli.

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