Judy Jepchirchir, the owner of First Choice Recruitment and Consulting Agency, was kicked out of a Senate committee hearing after she refused to rescind a letter allegedly accusing the lawmakers of siding with petitioners.
During the Wednesday hearing at Bunge Towers, the Senate Committee on Labour and Social Welfare was dismayed after Jepchirchir further declined to apologise, contrary to a directive it issued.
Jepchirchir’s agency was accused of collecting millions from prospective jobseekers with a promise of offering them jobs overseas, particularly in Qatar, during the 2022 World Cup.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, a committee member, pleaded with the accused to apologize and allow the hearing to continue to stop her from being ejected.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei attending a committee sitting on Wednesday, August 17, 2023.
Parliament of Kenya
“So counsel and honourable chair, our position remains in terms of an apology. I would ask her to apologize and withdraw,” Cherargei, a vocal senator allied to the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition, emphasised.
“Our standing orders are very simple. Even yesterday, I was thrown out (of a Senate session). You just say, ‘I wish to withdraw this letter’. I have even given you a simple idea. So if the counsel and respondents do not want to apologize, we throw them out, proceed with our meeting, and then the committee retreats and writes a report. Simple!” Cherargei added.
In line with Cherargei’s recommendation, Julius Murgor, the committee chairperson and West Pokot Senator, tasked the respondent to offer her apology or rebuttal.
“Honourable chair. Our position still remains and in terms of apology…,” her counsel responded before Murgor cut him short and ordered them out of the room.
Jepchirchir had snubbed earlier summons by the committee, which led to speculation that she enjoyed protection from well connected individuals in the government.
Some committee members accused her of being arrogant, with some wondering why she was yet to be arrested and arraigned.
“We need to know why this person has not been arrested and charged with fraud in court. It is clear that First Choice is still operating despite reports that it has been suspended from operating because it is not registered with the National Employment Agency,” Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba lamented in a past hearing.
Victims who claimed that were swindled of money by First Choice Agency demanded refunds, arguing that they took loans from financial institutions and close relatives and friends with hopes of landing overseas jobs.
However, Jepchirchir claimed that she secured jobs for over 7,000 Kenyans in Qatar and other European nations contrary to the allegations.
She added that her agency was legally registered in 2020 and that Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago who served as the county governor then, and Co-operatives CS Simon Chelugui (then Labour CS) attended its launch.
Mandago would, later on, be caught up in a different scandal as he was accused of swindling Uasin Gishu residents nearly Ksh1 billion with a promise of offering them education scholarships in Finland and Canada.
The senator recorded a statement with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations which is probing the matter.
Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago alongside other Finland Scholarship saga in court on August 17, 2023.