DoD on spot over purchase of alleged faulty carriers worth Sh8b

Kenya Defence Forces armoured personnel carriers leave the ill fated Westgate Mall in Westlands Nairobi where Alshabab militants blasted their way into the mall and killed dozens of shoppers. PHOTO:MOSES OMUSULA

Even as Kenya grapples with runaway insecurity following attacks by suspected Al Shabaab militants, the Department of Defense (DoD) is on the spot over the purchase of faulty Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) worth more than Sh8 billion.

There are also questions over more than Sh800 million used on salaries, advance payments and imprests.

The Auditor General has raised questions over the acquisition of 181 APC’s in his report for 2012/2013 financial year. The report says the acquisitions were made without subjecting the process to laid down accounting procedures to ensure value for money and financial probity.

The Auditor General raises more questions about how the APCs, which were originally meant for Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) ended up in South Sudan in the hands of the United Nations peacekeeping mission without proper documentation.

Flaws cited in a new report by the auditor general include lack of spare tyres and those available not being in a position to withstand a puncture for any extra time, faulty breaking system, faulty gear selection system and rust on internal parts. They also leak and water has to be drained manually, according to the report.

The auditor-general concerns come a time The Standard on Saturday has reliably been informed DoD has prepared a new tender for the purchase 102 APCs in the 2014/15 financial year.

Military spokesman Bogita Ongeri said DoD was preparing appropriate response to the auditor general on all the questions he had raised in his report. The response he said would clarify the issues raised. He said these could not be released to the media at this stage.

Unlike the agreement UN signed with Kenya for deployment of 4,500 troops and assorted equipment in Somalia as part of the African Mission , there are no documents to support the contract between DoD and UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss).

Unsupported spending

The initial purchase of 32 APCs cost the ministry $16.4 million (Sh1.2 billion), which the auditor-general says have been de-graded as substandard and unsuitable for the purpose for which they were bought. “Available records show that 32 APCs supplied in 2008 were deployed in Southern  as part of the Kenyan contingent in Unmiss and are still there to date. The UN identified some flaws with APCs in the field which included; the design of the vehicles on the part allows water to enter into the vehicles which accumulates inside and has to be drained. The ingression of water could affect the normal functioning of the various systems in the vehicle...”

The other flaws include lack of spare tyres and those available cannot withstand a puncture for any extra time, faulty breaking system, faulty gear selection system, rust on internal parts, worn out turret cover.
The audit report falls short of terming the tender a massive rip-off by military top command, saying: “In the absence of a final inspection report together with uncorrected flaws observed, it is not possible to confirm that the contract was executed to the satisfaction of the ministry.”

Instances of unsupported spending is further illustrated by how DoD incurred a Sh350 million payment voucher at National Intelligence Service that was allegedly not made available to the credit review. The verdict on DoD spending, which forms part of the current 2013/14 audit report wants military chiefs to justify for the purchase of 181  (APCs) on diverse dates.
Consequently, the report published last month (May 16), has become a source of animosity between the National Audit Office, which after a series of meetings over the past fortnight accuses DoD of financial fiddling because of “inappropriate presentation and disclosure of appropriation account.”

The Auditor-General Edward RO Ouko could not be reached for comment. However, a senior official at the National Audit office who would not speak on record for fear of reprisals told The Standard on Saturday that the office wants DoD to account for the huge gaps in its books.

The officer says the Auditor-General has held three meetings with the DoD, the last having taken place on Tuesday this week, to establish under what circumstances the APCs were contracted to Unmiss.

Contacted Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo would not respond to the questions sent to her. We confirmed that she actually read the questions.

DoD Assistant Director of Public Communication Ministry of Defence Bogita Ongeri initially expressed willingness to provide written response. However, it did not come through. The purchase of the 75 APCs a year later, is equally shrouded in controversy given the inconsistencies noted by the auditor-general