By SAM ALFAN
The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) boss Francis Atwoli today have testified in a case that the workers umbrella body lost over Sh 114 Million.
The workers body lost millions of money several years through a fictitious bank account allegedly opened by the former treasurer-general and another senior official,court heard today.
Cornel Ogutu and Milicent Ngeso were charged that between 21st November 2002 and 28th March 2013 jointly with others not before court stole 115 million shillings from Barclays Bank of Kenya purporting to have been authorized by COTU accounts signatories.
Both pleaded not guilty before a Nairobi magistrate court. He is remanded at Kileleshwa police station as investigations into the matter continued
Testifying in the case in which former COTU treasurer-general Cornel Ogutu and project co-ordinator Milicent Ngeso are accused of defrauding the worker’s union the colossal amounts, COTU Secretary-General Francis Atwoli informed Senior Principal Magistrate Joseph Karanja that COTU executive board was surprised by the existence of Barclays bank Queens way Branch account number 0942594267 which was to cater for HIV/AIDS and child labour awareness campaign. The two have however denied the allegation and are out on bond.
Atwoli further revealed to court that Ogutu and his co-accused on diverse dates between 2010 and 2012 used a forged signature of the late Chairman of COTU Peter Gitonga Muthee who passed away on December 13, 2003 to withdraw cash from the account. The Secretary general took the court through several Barclay s Bank cheques which were allegedly signed by the late Muthee by the two to withdraw cash from the Barclays Bank for close to three years told court that after the union was alarmed by a clerk is when the COTU executive board discovered the account was opened on November 6, 2002.
“The Barclays bank account was opened in the name of COTU but until we received information we were not aware of its existence as all our accounts are with KCB. COTU was also not aware of any transactions made through the said account and it never benefited from the same. “Atwoli said
He informed court that traditionally there are four signatories to the union’s accounts but three were mandatory before any transaction takes place. “The signatures of the chairman, secretary-general and treasurer are mandatory but in the absence of any of the three the project co-ordinator could sign on there behalf,” the secretary general said.
The secretary general said the union immediately contracted an audit firm to carry out a forensic audit of its finances and that is the time COTU’s executive board discovered that the union had lost Sh 114.993,483.45 through the account in question.
COTU boss informed court that he assumed office with Ogutu on August 24, 2001 disowned minutes of a meeting held on July 18, 2002 at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu which allegedly gave consent for the opening of the account.
“Normally the chairman and secretary general sign the minutes to confirm them but in this case this procedure was not followed in the said minutes.
He said the two disappeared on March 22 last year which forced the union and the banking fraud unit to run a public notice in the local media after three months.
The hearing was adjourned to April 23 when Mr Atwoli is expected to be cross-examined by the defence.