The long arm of the law has finally fished out suspects behind the Sh2.8 billion Government Advertising Agency (GAA) scam that has thrown mainstream media houses into financial dire straits.

Following the probe ordered by Director of Public Investigations (DPP) Noordin Haji, sleuths from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) have zeroed in on a former Principal secretary and a Member of Parliament for arrest and prosecution.

The two are among 24 officials who have been implicated in misappropriation of GAA cash .

The officials are said to have fraudulently procured advertising services worth hundreds of millions of shillings to non-existent companies and media outlets, which money was deposited in accounts that belong to some shadowy companies.

DCI detectives have been probing the procurement of advertising services by GAA  since August with several managers of various media houses recording statements.

The probe began after Haji ordered Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet to open an inquiry into failure by the Information ministry and GAA to offset the bill owed to media houses.

Various government agencies, among them parastatals and independent commissions are said to have met their part of the bargain by remitting the money to GAA, which, however, failed to forward the payments to the media houses.

Interestingly, both  the MP, currently serving his second term and the PS are from Western Kenya region.

Sources at DCI intimated to the People Daily that among the personalities faced with arrest and prosecution are senior officials in the Ministries of ICT and National Treasury  believed to have authorised payments of millions of shillings into phantom accounts and unregistered entities.

Personalities involved could be arrested this week after the Office of the Directorate Public Prosecutions (DPP) gave the DCI the green light for prosecution.

Others lined up for prosecution include a secretary in the ministry of ICT, a former director  and top current and former staff at GAA. Also roped in are officials from Treasury’s  Interested Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) department.

Detectives believe that the officials  fraudulently procured advertising services worth Sh2.8 billion, which were paid to non-existent companies and magazines, sources said.

Charges so far framed include abuse of office, conspiracy to commit an offence of economic crime, aiding the commission of a felony and wilful failure to comply with procurement laws.

Investigations started in August,  established the scheme started in July 2015 when the government announced a move to consolidate and control expenditure on advertising says team probing the matter in a memo that reveals outstanding bill is to be Sh2.8 billion.

Of these, Star Publications limited has a bill of Sh469.3 million while the Nation Media Group has Sh857 million.

The Standard Group has a pending bill of Sh829.7 million, Royal Media Services has Sh75 million while Mediamax Network has Sh780 million.

According to investigators, the money was either embezzled or paid to 99 shadowy companies by senior officials at the ICT ministry and the GAA in cahoots with some of the suppliers.

“There are advertising companies that were paid big amounts of money but when searched from the registrar of companies, they were found not to exist,” says part of a police report. The companies flagged include The Star Publication, Liason Media Nairobi, Extra Publications, Sunday Express, Tribute Media Network Limited and Health Africa Limited.

Others were Business Times, Sunday Publishers Professional Marketing. Also in the list are Government agencies such as Kenya Yearbook, which got Sh40 million, and KBC (Sh11 million) as well as several outlets that received sums ranging between Sh2 million and Sh9 million. The probe established no tendering process was followed in the awards of all the advertising services.

Local newspapers have been running editorials accusing the agency of signing contracts with local media outlets, and delaying payments contrary to government policy.

The agency handles advertisements from all government ministries and departments which are placed in print and electronic media.