Archbishop Okoth denies corruption allegations and forgives people out to tarnish his name

The allegations of corruption against the Archbishop of Kisumu’s office are “inaccurate, unreliable and misleading,” Most Rev. Zacchaeus Okoth, Archbishop of Kisumu has said.

Addressing a press conference at Ukweli Pastoral Centre, Kisumu on 28th May 2015, Archbishop Okoth said his office was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

Most Rev. Zacchaeus Okoth, Archbishop of Kisumu

“I want to state clearly that I’ve never and will never swindle the money belonging to my Archdiocese,” Archbishop Okoth said.

He added that none of the funds received by the Archdiocese of Kisumu in 2014 for projects had been misappropriated.

“Before claiming that funds for new and ongoing projects have been swindled, the least KTN should have done was to check and verify if the said funds had been received, when they were received, and whether or not they were missing from the account where they were supposed to be,” Archbishop Okoth said.

Archbishop Okoth reminded journalists that they had an important function of exposing wrongdoing and corruption. “Your profession however, requires that you secure proof of wrongdoing before making serious allegations such as the ones in question,” he said. “Next time you need information from the Archbishop’s office, please use the right channels and procedures.”

In a surprising move, Archbishop Okoth said he had forgiven those who were behind the campaign to tarnish his name. “Even though this issue has caused me much suffering and pain, I forgive whoever did it and will continue to pray for him. For the good of the Catholic Church, I feel the suspect’s name should not be disclosed to the public. I do not hold any grudge against the person who can rest assured of my fatherly and spiritual support.”

Intercepting and publicizing Apostolic Nuncio’s correspondence a violation of diplomatic law

Archbishop Okoth said that the story accusing his office of corruption was prepared using confidential documents in parcels addressed to the Apostolic Nuncio’s office in Nairobi which were illegally intercepted, photocopied and handed over to KTN journalists.

“I’d like to point out that what KTN reporters did was a violation of the diplomatic law. According to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, official diplomatic communication is inviolable. Being an Ambassador, the Apostolic Nuncio’s papers and correspondence are inviolable, and whoever intercepts and publicizes the content such correspondence violates the principles of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and may lawfully be prosecuted and punished,” Archbishop Okoth said.

“Furthermore, interception and disclosure of private communication without being authorised by a judge is an offence,” he added.

KTN story part of a bigger scheme to discredit Archbishop Okoth and the Catholic Church in Kenya

In a separate statement, the Archdiocese of Kisumu, said “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.

The statement read by a team led by Reverend Fr. Moses Omollo, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kisumu, said: “Archbishop Zacchaeus 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 Archbishop Okoth and the Catholic Church in Kenya. The allegations of corruption against the Archbishop Okoth’s office were baseless and without any substance.”

Archbishop Okoth (centre) denies corruption allegations and forgives people out to tarnish his name

The Archdiocese of Kisumu said it was impossible to apply for funds for non-existent and “fictitious projects” as KTN alleged. “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 the projects must be implemented,” the Archdiocese of Kisumu said.

An update on the state of implementation of the projects mentioned in the KTN story was provided at the press conference.

The Archdiocese of Kisumu revealed that funds for some of the projects in question were received in November last year, and wondered how realistic it would have been to launch and complete construction projects within a couple of months.

At the press conference it was pointed that some of the documents KTN used were not the ones the Archdiocese of Kisumu sent to its donors.

Mr. Nelson Sweta, Most Rev. Zacchaeus Okoth, Brother Patrick Gor and Ms Maureen Aluoch

KTN was faulted for implying that some project funds had been received and  pocketed, yet a number of projects in question had not yet been funded. For instance, the Archdiocese of Kisumu applied for funds for the construction of St. Michael’s Sigomre Convent in November 2014 but it has yet received the funds. KTN however, “acted maliciously by showing the application for funds but not informing the public that the project had not been funded,” the Archdiocese of Kisumu stated.

The Archdiocese of Kisumu termed the KTN story “one-sided and erratic”, observing that “even when the KTN reporters travelled to places where construction work was ongoing they carefully avoided to show such constructions.”

The Archdiocese of Kisumu also accused KTN reporters of fabricating information. They claimed that they interviewed a Brother in Bondo yet there are no 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,” the Archdiocese of Kisumu said.

The Archdiocese of Kisumu described the KTN story as “an unprecedented smear campaign against the office of the Archbishop of Kisumu.”