KISUMU, (28th May 2015): — The following statement titled THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE, can be attributed to the Archdiocese of Kisumu. It is delivered by Reverend Fr. Moses Omollo, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kisumu, Fr. Francis Konyach, Sr. Irene, Brother Patrick Gor and Mr. Nelson Sweta.
On 26th March 2015 KTN aired a story accusing the Archbishop of Kisumu’s office of swindling millions of Kenya shillings.
From our investigations, it appears that confidential documents in parcels addressed to the Apostolic Nuncio’s office in Nairobi were illegally intercepted, photocopied and handed over to KTN journalists.
In the process of illegally copying the documents the persons doing so probably mixed them up as was reflected on the KTN story.
The people behind the story carefully developed a scheme purposely meant to tarnish Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth’s name by accusing his office of corruption and misappropriation of Diocesan funds.
Archbishop Okoth has been very critical of injustice and corruption in Kenya. The way the KTN story was crafted and the timing make us suspect it is part of a bigger scheme to discredit the Archbishop and the Catholic Church in Kenya.
The allegations of corruption against the Archbishop’s office were baseless and without any substance.
The people interviewed were constantly asked closed questions that required a 'Yes' or 'No' answer, clearly showing the journalists’ bias and lack of neutrality.
The Archdiocese of Kisumu is one of the most developed Dioceses in Kenya. Why did the KTN journalists fail to notice billions worth of investments done by the Archdiocese of Kisumu?
We have built and run several institutions of learning from nursery to university.
We have also built several polytechnics including Barkorwa Youth Polytechnic Centre and Koru Youth Polytechnic.
One of the biggest development projects ever implemented by the Archdiocese of Kisumu is Uzima University College of Health Sciences.
The other development projects of the Archdiocese include several hospitals such as St. Monica and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Training College.
Furthermore, the Archdiocese has initiated and surrendered to the State many development projects.
You can only claim that funds have been stolen if you have evidence that they have been transferred from the account of the Archdiocese to private accounts. Such a thing has never happened in our Archdiocese.
We’d like to clearly inform KTN that the Archdiocese of Kisumu cannot apply for funds for non-existent and “fictitious projects” as they alleged. It is practically impossible to apply for funds from the Vatican and fail to implement the intended projects.
At times the project implementation pace is lower than expected because of poverty at local level which prolongs the time required to raise the necessary local contributions. But at the end of the day, projects must be implemented.
The funds we receive from our sponsors are just a small fraction of those needed to implement our projects.
Having said that, now let’s address the key issues raised in the story accusing the Archbishop’s office.
Sisters of Mercy Muhoroni Convent
The Parish House in Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, Muhoroni, which was given to the Sisters, was built when Muhoroni was still under Koru Parish.
When Sisters of Mercy from England came to the Archdiocese of Kisumu, we offered them the Parish House which was big enough to accommodate them.
The Parish Priest was appointed when the Sisters were already living in the Parish House, and he happily moved to the temporary shelter as is customary when new Parishes are began.
KTN claimed that the Parish House has not yet been built. This is misleading because the Parish House is there and already hosts the missionary Sisters of Mercy.
Furthermore, the Sisters did not kick out the Parish Priest from the Parish House as KTN alleged. The current Parish Priest has only been there for a few months, yet the Sisters have been living in the Parish House for several years.
Christ the King Katito Convent
Our report to the Nuncio’s office never indicated that the Katito Convent had been built. And we never attached any photo to that report. We instead attached an impression drawing.
KTN claimed our report indicated that the construction of the Katito Convent was complete, and the reporters even used a wrong photo.
At Katito Parish, we are currently building the Church. Customarily, we give priority to the building of the Church. In fact the Church has reached the roof level. Once we finish building the Church, the Convent will be built.
Holy Cross Catholic Convent - Karapul, Siaya
The Archdiocese of Kisumu received funds for the construction of the Holy Cross Sisters Convent in Karapul in November 2014.
KTN alleged that “someone signed and seemingly pocketed the cash”. This is grossly misleading because the money is in the account of the Archdiocese of Kisumu. As soon as we raise the local contribution, the Convent will be built.
St. Michael’s Sigomre Parish Convent
The Archdiocese of Kisumu applied for funds for the construction of Sigomre Convent in November 2014 but we’ve not yet received the funds. KTN, however, once again acted maliciously by showing the application for funds but not informing the public that the project had not been funded.
Brothers of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – Chapel Construction (Koru)
The Archdiocese of Kisumu applied for funds for the construction of Brothers of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel in Koru, in November 2014 but we’ve not yet received them.
Even in this case, KTN misled the public by maliciously showing the application for funds but not informing the public that no funds had been received for the project.
The application for funds was signed by Brother Fredrick Ochieng’ Ogutu but in their report, KTN claimed that he “left the Brothers Home three years ago”. This is false and misleading information because Brother Fredrick is still a Brother within the Archdiocese of Kisumu. As a member of the Brothers Council, Brother Fredrick oversees the Brothers’ projects.
Brothers of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – Extension of St Luke Community
The Archdiocese of Kisumu applied for funds for extension of Barkorwa Brothers House in 2013 and the money was received in November 2014.
KTN however alleged that “the money was donated, signed for but it was never used for the construction work.” This is once again inaccurate and misleading information.
The money is safe in the account of the Archdiocese of Kisumu and will soon be used to extend the Brothers House when we raise the local contribution.
The issue of signatures
The Archbishop of Kisumu oversees and supervises the planning and implementation of Diocesan projects in close collaboration with pastors and administrative financial staff.
Whenever the Archdiocese of Kisumu receives funds for projects, the Archbishop signs and ensures they are deposited in the Diocesan bank accounts and channeled to the approved projects.
However, the Archbishop wasn’t aware that someone within the office was signing letters on behalf of priests, brothers and sisters. He has therefore ordered an internal investigation into the issue and will act accordingly.
General observations on the KTN story
The KTN story was one-sided and erratic. Even when the KTN reporters travelled to places where construction work was ongoing they carefully avoided to show such constructions.
For instance, they did not clearly show Katito Church which is at the roof level.
They also failed to mention that the Sisters of Mercy hosted in the Parish House in Muhoroni, have set up several community projects including an Hospice with an inpatient facility offering total pain management. The Hospice also has a psychosocial support group for those living with HIV/AIDS.
The Sisters also built a mortuary and Got Nyithindo Primary School. All these are close and are within the vicinity of the Parish, yet KTN avoided either mentioning or showing them.
Most of the clergy KTN interviewed were new in their Parishes, and some were not even the Parish Priests. It was therefore malicious to ask a new Parish Priest or Assistant Priest whether he had asked the Archdiocese to build a convent, chapel, school, etc., yet these were part of the Archdiocese’s development plans initiated by his predecessor.
Considering that funds for some of the projects in question were received in November last year, how realistic would it have been to launch and complete a construction project within a couple of months?
It is equally important to note that projects normally have implementation timeframe which the KTN story totally ignored.
The funds applied for from donors are not sufficient to implement any of the projects mentioned in the KTN story. For instance, we applied for 30,000 US dollars (which is about 2,9 million Kenya Shillings) to build the Katito Convent, but we will require more than 7 million Kenya Shillings to build that Convent.
And we normally don’t receive the whole amount we apply for. For instance, at times we apply for 30,000 US dollars but only receive 20,000 or even less.
KTN also claimed that the name of a Brother in Bondo was used to divert more than 2 million Kenya Shillings.
Fabrication of information is a violation of journalistic ethics, and this is exactly what KTN reporters did. They claimed that they interviewed a Brother in Bondo, yet we don’t have Brothers in Bondo.
We challenge KTN to prove that we have a Brothers Community in Bondo, and to prove that the name of a Brother in Bondo had “been used to divert more than 2 million Kenya Shillings.” KTN should also show when this happened, the source of the funds and who took them.
It is equally striking to note that throughout the story, KTN claims that millions of Shillings “appear” to have been swindled. But towards the end, the figures are drastically increased from millions to billions. This is a deliberate attempt to inflate the story and malign the name of the Archdiocese of Kisumu.
This is indeed an unprecedented smear campaign against the office of the Archbishop of Kisumu.
As we previously said, we read mischief and malice in the way the KTN story was crafted and aired and believe it was meant to character assassinate the Archbishop of Kisumu.
We’d like to express our solidarity with our Archbishop who has displayed extraordinary apostolic zeal in the service of the Gospel. Please don’t let these baseless allegations discourage you from your apostolic duties and commitment to fight against corruption and injustice in our society.
READ ALSO: Archbishop Okoth: Corruption allegations are “inaccurate, unreliable and misleading”
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE PRESS CONFERENCE IN RESPONSE TO KTN STORY ABOUT ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPTION IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF KISUMU