Ndung’u v Republic (Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Appeal 22 of 2017)  KEHC 16007 (KLR) (Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes) (1 December 2022) (Judgment)
Neutral citation:  KEHC 16007 (KLR)
Republic of Kenya
Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Appeal 22 of 2017
EN Maina, J
December 1, 2022
Joseph Karanja Ndung’u
(Being an Appeal against the judgment of Hon. Felix Kombo SPM in Milimani Anti-Corruption Case No. 14 of 2012 Republic v Eden Odhiambo Robinson, Ruth Wanyagu Sande, Orego Odhiambo Fredrick, Joseph Karanja Ndung’u, Flora Ngina Ngonze, George Muya Njoroge, and George Ochanda Machooka)
1.The Appellant was the 4th accused of seven persons charged with three offences pertaining to the award of a Tender for supply of promotional materials to the Catering Tourism Development Levy Trustees where the Appellant held the position of Head of Procurement. The first charge was a joint charge of careless failure to comply with the law relation to procurement contrary to Section 45 (2) (b) of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act. The particulars of the charge were: -
2.The Appellant was separately charged with two counts of Making a document without authority contrary to Section 357 (a)of the Penal Code. On both counts it was alleged that between 6th September, 2010 and 28th October, 2010 the Appellant had with intent to deceive and without lawful authority or excuse made two documents to wit CTDLT Request for Quotation (count 2) and CTDLT Confidential Business Questionnaire (count 3), purporting that the said documents were submitted by M/s Ultra Limited as part of a bid for Tender No. CTDLT/Q/04/2010 – 201.
3.The Appellant and his co-accused all pleaded not guilty to the charges but upon hearing and evaluating the evidence presented before him the trial magistrate found the Appellant’s co-accused not guilty of the charge in which they were jointly charged (count1) but convicted the Appellant on that count and also on counts 2 and 3. The magistrate however exercised his powers under Section 179 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code and to reduce Counts 2 and 3 and substituted them with a conviction for the offence of Forgery contrary to Section 349 of the Penal Code.
4.The Appellant was subsequently sentenced as follows:-To pay a fine of Kshs. 750,000/=.Count 2:
5.Being aggrieved by the conviction the Appellant preferred this appeal which is premised on the following grounds: -
6.The Appeal is vehemently opposed.
7.Counsel for the parties canvassed their arguments by way of written submission.
8.Mr. Gachuba, learned Counsel for the Appellant quoted heavily form the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2005 and submitted that the Appellant was not a member of the Tender Committee, that no evidence was adduced before the trial court to demonstrate that the Tender Committee sought any advice from the Appellant or that the Appellant indeed gave the Tender Committee such advice; that the trial Magistrate should not have admitted the evidence given against the Appellant by the co-accused; that the charges were not proved beyond reasonable doubt; that evidence of a handwriting/document examiner is never conclusive and that therefore the trial magistrate erred in convicting the Appellant and this court should allow the appeal quash the conviction and set aside the sentences.
9.Learned Counsel for the Appellant also placed reliance on the following decided cases: -1.Anyuma S/O Omolo & Another vs Republic (1953) 20 EACA 218 – where it was held that the confession of a co-accused is the weakest kind: that it is accomplice evidence needing corroboration.2.Republic vs Wadingombe bin Mkwanda & others 91941) 8 EACA 33 where it was held that it would not be proper to convict on the unsupported evidence of a co-accused.3.Hassan EA, the case of Republic vs Podmore (1930) 46 TLR365 and the case of Wakeford vs LINCOLN (Bishop) (1921) 90 LJPC 174 where it was held that a handwriting expert can only point out similarities in the handwritings but cannot make a conclusive opinion that the handwriting was that of a particular person.
10.On her part learned Prosecution Counsel M/s Ndombi submitted that the trial court properly analyzed the evidence. She stated that the Appellant being a Procurement Manager had knowledge of the best procurement method for different tenders but he did not offer advice to the Tender Committee yet those members had no prior knowledge of procurement procedures. Learned Counsel contended that in regard to the charges of forgery there was water tight evidence against the Appellant as all the quotations and regret letters emanated from his office and the evidence of the document examiner, supported this. Counsel urged this court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit.
11.In a rejoinder filed in answer to the submissions of the Respondent, Learned Counsel for the Appellant reiterated that the Appellant was not a member of the tender committee. Counsel submitted that the Appellant was not an advisor to the Tender Committee either; that Regulation 12(7) of the Public Procurement and Disposal Regulations 2006 provided that a tender committee could invite independent advisors or members of the procurement unit to explain submissions or to provide technical advice, where required. Counsel argued that Section 27 (3) of the PPDA 2005 obligated each member of the Tender Committee to ensure compliance with the law but that the Appellant was not a member. Quoting Section 27(3) of the PPDA 2005 and Regulation 10 (2) (b) of the 2006 Regulations Counsel asserted that there was no evidence to demonstrate that the Appellant performed the statutory functions of the tender committee and that the Appellant wondered why the Respondent refused to appeal the trial magistrate’s erroneous findings and acquittal of the Appellant’s co-accused. Counsel contended that if there was any willful or careless failure to comply with the law and guidelines relating to procurement then such failure could only be attributed to the Tender Committee. Counsel also stated that the Respondent did not cite any law that required the Appellant to have knowledge of the best procurement method to be used or to offer advice to the Tender Committee on the same. He urged this court to find that the conviction is unsafe, quash the same and set aside the sentences and consequently order the fines be refunded.
Analysis and Determination.
12.As the first appellate court my duty is to reconsider and evaluate the evidence before the trial court so as to arrive at my own independent conclusion while keeping in mind that I did not see or hear the witnesses who gave evidence. See the case of Okeno vs Republic (1972) EA 32 and the case of Kiilu & Another vs Republic (2005), KLR 174. I have also taken the rival submissions into account.
13.On count 1 the Appellant and his co-accused were charged under Section 45 (2) (b) of Anti-Corruption & Economic Crimes Act (ACECA) which states:
14.This is a charge which pertains to officers or persons who are concerned with among others, the management of public property or revenue. The Appellant and his co-accused were alleged to have committed the offence for carelessly failing to comply with Section 88(b) and Rule 59 of the Regulations 2006 by disregarding the threshold matrix referred thereto.
15.There is no dispute that the Appellant was the Head of Procurement at the CTDLT (Catering & Tourism Development Levy Trustees). As such he was an officer charged with inter alia, the management, receipt or use of any part of public property as is envisaged in Section 45(2) of the ACECA. He was an expert in procurement matters hence his employment in that entity in the capacity of Procurement Manager. It is evident even from his own defence that he was present when the tender the subject of this charge was awarded. My reading of the evidence as a whole revealed that the other members of the Tender Committee had no prior knowledge of procurement matters.
16.The tender the subject of the charges against the Appellant was for goods worth over Kshs. 11 million. The relevant threshold matrix for a Class A Procuring Entity such as the CTDLT was the First schedule of the Regulations which provided that the Request for Quotation method could be used only if the maximum level of expenditure did not exceed Kshs. 1,000,000/=. The provision read as follows: -
17.In my view the aforestated minimum referred to the entire expenditure but not to the unit price and as such to begin with the method used by the Tender Committee was erroneous as for any expenditure above Kshs. 1,000,000/= the open Tender Method should have been used.
18.The Appellant referred to an FAQ document to justify the use of the request for quotation but in my view the FAQ document was not relevant and would not have in any case superseded the Act and Regulations.
19.As stated earlier the Appellant was the only expert in procurement matters who was present when the Tender Committee made its deliberations in regard to this tender. While he may not have had a vote or place in the decision making of the committee it behooved him to offer guidance to the other members. As stated earlier he was an employee of the procuring entity and an officer whose functions concerned the management of public property and under Section 27 (3) of the PPDA, 2005 each employee of a public entity, as he was, had an obligation within the area of his/her responsibility to ensure compliance with the Act and the regulations. It is also evident that because of his silence the Tender Committee erroneously applied the incorrect threshold matrix. Indeed, in his defence the 1st accused stated that the Appellant herein had no issues with the matrix applied hence their choice. This in my view translates to abdication of responsibility hence willful and careless failure on the part of the Appellants. Further had he wanted to, he could have corrected the error when the CEO of the CTDLT requested him to convene a meeting to discuss the tender. I am satisfied therefore that the Appellant willfully ignored the provisions of Sections 26 (3) (b), 88 (b), Section 89 (2) (c) of the PPDA 2005, and Regulation 59 (1) of the PPD Regulations Act. The violation of Section 89 (2) (c) arose when he purported to have issued requests for quotations to four firms knowing very well that only one company Media Productions would receive the same.
20.The objectives of the provisions of the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act are inter alia to encourage competition but it is clear from the evidence that the conduct of the Appellant right from the beginning was intended to stifle that objective. That explains why he deliberately kept mum when the Tender Committee resorted to the wrong procurement method and why he ensured that the request for quotation was sent to only one company. I am satisfied that count 1 of the charge was proved against him beyond reasonable doubt and that the trial magistrate did not err in convicting him for the offence.
21.In regard to counts 2 and 3 there is no doubt in my mind that the documents referred to were forgeries. This was confirmed even by Mr. Mweni (DW8) a handwriting expert witness called by the Appellant. The documents did not emanate from Ultra Limited. Indeed, witnesses from the four companies to whom it was purported the request for quotations were sent all denied participating in the procurement. It was their evidence that they were not invited to participate in the tender. There was other evidence such as Appellant being associated with making of the documents by the document examiner, there was also evidence from PW11 (Mary Kitaka) that she received the documents from the Appellant.
22.Whereas the evidence of a handwriting expert is just but an opinion which is not binding on the court there is no reason for this court to disregard the opinion that was offered by the handwriting expert as there was other evidence tending to the guilt of the accused in so far as his preparation of the questioned documents was concerned. That evidence included that of PW11 who categorically disputed that she prepared or issued documents to the four firms or even that she was involved in the selection of those companies and that she got the questioned documents from the Appellant but not from the Tender box.
23.In regard to the contradiction between the evidence of the two handwriting experts I find that having considered the evidence as a whole that of PW14 was more credible and reliable. This is also given that PW14 was able to explain the methodology he had used to arrive at his conclusion while DW8 did not. It was also evident that the equipment used by PW14 was better placed to give a more reliable result.
24.In the upshot I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the Appellant committed the offences for which he was convicted in counts 2 and 3. The trial Magistrate applied the correct principle in exercising his power under Section 179 (2) Criminal Procedure Code to reduce the charge as he did. The Appeal therefore fails and it is dismissed in its entirety. The conviction and sentences imposed by the trial court are affirmed and upheld. It is so order.
SIGNED, DATED AND DELIVERED VIRTUALLY THIS 1ST DAY OF DECEMBER, 2022.E.N. MAINAJUDGE