The media is having the last laugh after the former head of the Government Advertising Agency (GAA) Dennis Chebitwey was arrested.
Chebitwey was apprehended for diverting money to phoney companies showing that the money was incurred by government ministries, departments and agencies.
On Friday, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji concurred with his Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) counterpart George Kinoti that there was sufficient evidence to charge Chebitwey for the misappropriation of Kshs122 million.
Chebitwey will be charged alongside Lugari MP Ayub Savula and his two wives and former Information Permanent Secretary Sammy Itemere and at least 20 other individuals.
“I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence of fraudulent advertisement and payment of Sh122,335,500 to honourable Ayub Savula, Melody Gatwiri and Hellen Kemboi, the Sunday Publishers Limited, Melsav Company Ltd, Johnnewton Communications, the Express Media Group, No Burns Protection Ltd, Cross Continent Ventures Ltd and Sheldlock Ltd respectively,” said Haji in a statement.
The DPP ordered the probe into GAA operations after the Nation Media Group highlighted how media houses are struggling after the government centralising its advertising in a bid to cut costs but the move ended in a drought of ad revenue for them as the agency failing to remit the same.
It blamed the scenario to the painful restructuring the media has been forced to undertake, including sending home hundreds of employees.
A columnist with The Nairobian, Silas Nyanchwani brought home how the corruption at the GAA impacted on journalists and other media employees, revealing his retainer was cut by 40% by The Standard Group as a result, a move that threw him into depression.
“Mid-February this year I went to the ATM to withdraw my salary to pay rent. Shock on me. The money in my account was less my expected salary by over 40 %. I was beside myself with rage. Because our salaries come through in the middle of the month, my bills are usually delayed and there is little room to manoeuvre if something funny happened. The following morning, armed with fury, disappointment and adulthood anxiety, I went to the pay office to ask what happened? The woman in charge did not hesitate to tell me that starting January, the company had already reduced the price of a column by 40%,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“Didn’t the editor tell you?” “No, he didn’t,” I told her with the heaviest heart anywhere South of the Sahara Desert.
‘He should. The CEO ordered that they communicate. They did not. And effectively a salary cut had been effected in the most undemocratic manner and for the first time, I felt like sh**t as an adult. I contemplated quitting writing altogether. My salary in one- fell swop had been reduced to what some of you spend on drinks on a lazy Tuesday evening. I cried. Between 2008-12 I used to earn more as a writer than I do now. But now, I get paid less. Far less. But now, I am a married man with a girl who eats like dad and due to join school in January. My only source of wherewithal had been badly compromised and I spent time contemplating moving out of Kenya to drive trucks in States. And that decision to cut my salary had a direct impact on my life and in the ensuing two months, I ran into some serious trouble, sending me to some serious depression,” added Nyanchwani.
Though the suspects are set to be charged with misappropriation of Ksh 122 million, the GAA owed media houses Ksh 2.5 billion as at June this year.
Standard Group is claiming Ksh 931 million from the government, Nation Media Group is asking for Ksh 835 million, while Mediamax Network Ltd is yet to recover Ksh 462 million. Royal Media Services and Radio Africa Group/The Star newspaper are demanding Ksh 60 million and Ksh 423 million respectively.