State officer, politician in tussle over Sh1.7b boat tender

All eyes are on Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in Mombasa as detectives riding on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s support swoop on the agency to rid it of run-away graft involving big tenders.

Sources at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said investigations were at an advanced stage, and that some top managers at the port could this week be forced to step aside.

Always a playground of the mighty, the latest that unleashed the president’s ire is said to be a Sh1.7 billion tender slug-fest between a State officer and a politician.

On Monday, President Kenyatta told senior port officials named in the Sh40 billion Kipevu Oil Terminal scandal not to call him for help when anti-corruption sleuths come for them. “There are people who have committed themselves to fighting corruption as a matter of life and death. Please, do not say it was me. I have not sent anyone to steal. Those guys are not playing,” he said.

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He was speaking while flagging off the first shipment of Kenya’s crude oil.

In the Sh1.7 billion tender war for building a boat, the two powerful individuals are said to be fronting different companies to secure the tender announced last year.

There are doubts that the companies they are fronting meet the tender requirements.

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Both the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and DCI are separately investigating KPA over the matter.

Already, DCI boss George Kinoti has set his eyes on 10 current and former KPA managers in corruption-related probes, including the clearance of more than 400 containers of goods without payment of duty. “We are investigating a number of issues at the port. Once the probe is completed we will effect arrests,” said Kinoti without giving further details.

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EACC Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak confirmed that his agency was also investigating the matter.

The Sunday Standard has reliably established that the contract attracted nine bidders. However, two of the companies were fronted by a State official and a politician.

The other seven bidders registered their frustrations, threatening to challenge KPA’s eventual decision in court. “It seems the tender advert was just a formality,” said one of the bidders who declined to be named.

KPA initiated the process to procure a boat to be used to manoeuver, primarily by towing or pushing, other vessels in harbours, over the open sea or through rivers and canals. Efforts to get a comment from KRA Corporate Affairs Head Bernard Osero were futile, with calls to his cell phone going unanswered. He also did not reply to text messages.

Early this year, KPA management through the Human Resource department issued gag orders to staff, warning them not to share any information with the media.

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“We know the amount that we have spent and the one you intended to spend on that project. We are monitoring the situation and watching you. We know the shoddy deals that you are involved in and the delays that you are staging for your own gains,” Uhuru said.

In the Kipevu matter, at least 16 officials, including KPA boss Daniel Manduku and his predecessor Catherine Mturi-Wairi are said to have recorded statements with EACC. There are fears the tender was inflated from Sh12 billion to Sh59 billion.

“Do not say I have sent anyone when you get caught. You have been caught with the hand in the jar and very soon you will begin to see that so and so is missing, he has been arrested. There is danger coming and so open your eyes and there will be no one to talk to or call because those lines are no longer in service,” Kenyatta said.

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