|Parliament buildings. PAC will table a report detailing how officers in the office of the Deputy President allegedly conspired to steal from the public.|
By WILFRED AYAGA
NAIROBI, KENYA: More details have emerged from the report Public Accounts Committee will table before the House on procurement of the so-called ‘Hustler’s Jet’ for Deputy President William Ruto’s shuttle diplomacy last year.
The report, which we exclusively reported about on Tuesday deflected any form of blame on President Uhuru Kenyatta, said to have sanctioned the trips, and his deputy, but was harsh on the conduct of five senior officers in Ruto’s office.
On Ruto, the report is resolute: “The Committee, however, found out no evidence to indicate that the Deputy President was directly involved in the procurement process for the hire of the jet, which was used…”
But then, the report quickly raises serious issues, sourced from its hearings and receipt of evidence from those summoned, on the conduct of the DP’s top aides, and details why they want them investigated further by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Agency.
The National Assembly’s watchdog committee is categorical that the process that led to the hiring of the private jet was an intricate and tightly knit scheme that violated all relevant procurement procedures.
It is particularly hard on Ruto’s Chief of Staff, Marianne Kitany, who is accused of being complicit, and later allegedly trying to cover up by transfer of staff who were involved in the process.
“The buck, accordingly, stops with her in respect of the performance of members of staff under her watch,” reads the report.
The staff in reference here are those the report insists were charged with official responsibility, but abdicated their duties and conspired to short-circuit procedures defined in the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA) regulations.
“The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) should investigate her (Kitany) for dereliction of duty, inertia and possible conspiracy to defraud Government and/or cover up the same,” reads the 54-page report titled the ‘Hustler’s Jet’ inquiry.
It says that four other officers — Abdul Mwaserah (Administrative Secretary), Evans Nyachio (Senior Assistant director of Supply Chain Management), Paul Kamau (Senior Finance Officer) and Simon Okoth (Supply Chain Management Officer) — were involved in acts of omission and commission, “that were consistent with a well-choreographed scheme to circumvent procurement rules.”
It recommends that they be investigated further. Although the five officials are claimed to have acted in concert, Kitany, according to the report, was the lead actor in the alleged conspiracy that led to the breakdown of internal accountability within the DP’s office.
The committee says that her actions, during and in the aftermath of the scam coming to light, reflected an attempt to mislead investigators.
She is accused of misleading the committee on the loss of critical documents, and claiming to have ordered investigations into the loss when in actual fact nothing was being done.
“The committee considers Kitany an accomplice in an apparent cover-up of an attempted procurement scam. She bears responsibility for the failure of the Office of the DP’s internal control mechanisms at the time the process of the hire of the aircraft was ongoing.”
The common denominator that seems to be informing the conspiracy theory advanced by the PAC is the loss of Local Purchase Orders (LPO’s), and Local Service Orders (LSO’s), which may have helped unravel the actual cost of the DP’s nine-nation African trip.
The committee cites the loss of the documents as the final brazen act to destroy crucial leads to the scam and lead investigators down the garden path.
The report zeroes in on Okoth as the possible culprit in the loss of the crucial documents.
“He is the principal suspect in the loss of the LSOs and the LPOs. The committee is satisfied that he was an accomplice of Mwasera and Nyachio and possibly others in a possible conspiracy that may have compromised the internal control mechanisms during the procurement process,” the report explains.
Mwasera, the report recommends, should also be held accountable for signing LPOs outside the ministry’s budget, and in so doing violating Section 26 of the Procurement Act.
“He is culpable for signing LPO’s for the hire of the aircraft when the office of the DP did not have sufficient funds to meet the transaction.”
Kamau is also indicted for signing LSO’s for the payment of Sh18, 564,000 while knowing that the office of the DP did not have the money.
During the committee hearings, most of the indicted officers were found to have misled the committee on the events leading to the loss of the documents.
“The committee is not persuaded that the loss of the documents could happen without the knowledge of the officers until the Auditor General raise the red flag,” the report says.
Ahmed Kassam, who is the majority shareholder in, EADC Limited, the company that supplied the aircraft is also recommended for prosecution for reportedly misleading the tender committee on the type of aircraft that was available for hire.
The company was also awarded the tender despite the fact that it had no tax compliance certificate and the committee said that Nyachio should bear the burden for the violation.
“He should bear responsibility for the award of the tender to EADC Limited even when the firm did not produce a tax compliance certificate,” says the report.
It reveals that most of those in the delegation for the DP’s trip were joyriders who hopped onto the flight on a mission they knew little about.
“The criteria and rationale for selecting that travelling party is unclear and their specific value to the trip is not manifest,” the report says.
During her appearance before the committee, Kitany defended herself saying that her office had taken the decision to do direct procurement due to the urgency of the DP’s trip.
“The PPOA envisages such instances. This method allows for procurement whose value does not exceed Sh20,000,000 and the cost of hire of the DP’s aircraft did not exceed this amount,” she told the committee.
The committee in its deliberations attempted to answer several questions, among them whether there was any attempted cover-up of the scam, and if the loss of the official documents was deliberate.
PAC in its final recommendations directs the Principal Secretary in the office of the DP to submit a report to the House on measures taken to curb breach of government regulations.
“To this end, he must present to the National Assembly an action taken report not later than June 30 2014.”
The committee is understood to have endorsed the report. However, last evening credible sources in the House and also in the committee revealed there was pressure to have the committee sit again and review the recommendations contained in the final draft that members approved for tabling in the House.
But the point of departure between the Auditor-General’s own recommendation and that of PAC on the jet’s hiring is that the top auditor recommended that the matter be taken up by the Director of Public Prosecutions, while the committee wants further investigations by EACC.
The PAC report is likely to be tabled when the House resumes its sittings next week.