Omtatah seeks to stop Sh1b new number plates tender

Activist Okiya Omtatah. The State is accused of abandoning initial project for another one despite having machines and materials which it bought and have not been used to date. [File]

Taxpayers could lose Sh1 billion in a project to make new hi-tech number plates after the government floated a new tender for a number plate manufacturing plant despite having new machines lying idle at Kamiti Prison for five years now.

This claim is contained in a new case filed in court, with the government being accused of abandoning the initial project for another one despite having machines and materials which it bought and have not been used to date.

According to the case filed before the High Court in Nairobi, the government floated yet another tender on August 7, 2020 for supply, installation, training and commissioning of integrated and securitised licence plates production facility.

This is despite floating a similar tender and which President Uhuru Kenyatta inspected at Kamiti Maximum Prison in February 2017. A parliamentary committee on security made a similar visit last year.

“The impugned tender is both unreasonable and wasteful to the extent that it seeks to procure an entire production plant whose installed capacity will never be utilised while abandoning fully serviceable new machinery lying idle at Kamiti and waiting to be rolled out and which the Government acquired between 2013 and 2015 at more than Sh1 billion,” the case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah reads in part.

The project mooted back in 2013 is spinning into a saga with endless cases, with claims of graft shadowing each move.

The president, during the passing out parade of Prisons recruits on August 13, 2020 lauded Prisons for the new project.

But Omtatah reads mischief in this as he had on August 6, 2020 written to the Ministry of Interior questioning the veracity of the new project. “Since the president’s speech was prepared for him by the State Department for Correctional Services, the petitioner reasonably suspects that the first, second and third respondents mischievously used the unsuspecting president to send a coded message to the petitioner that the scam was unstoppable,” he claims.

In his case, Omtatah claims that the new project was not budgeted for and is not in the national budget as required by the Constitution.

The first tender was awarded to Tropical Technologies Ltd. It was meant to supply the State with machines and train employees on how to use the same. The training targeted 30 employees in a batch of 15.

But in response, the Correctional Services Principal Secretary Zienab Hussein has said the decision to have a manufacturing plant was anchored on the government’s Big Four agenda. She accuses Omtatah of defamation and spewing untruths.

Numerous litigation

According to her, the machines which are at Kamiti have been integrated to the new plant, adding that the activist has no evidence that the plant, which intends to produce 800,000 number plates a month, was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The PS, however, admitted that the first project stalled. She claims that cases that dogged the project were the reason why Kenyans have not seen the new number plates.

“The previous attempts to undertake the process have not been fully successful as the process was subjected to numerous litigation before the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board and the High Court, which stalled it,” she replied.

Omtatah claims the intended project was not viable as Kenya registers 400,000 vehicles in a year.

Justice James Makau has suspended the tender floated last month until the case filed by Omtatah is heard and determined.

The smart number plates are a critical component of a wider security plan — the integrated automated management system — in which a new generation of driving licences will also be introduced.

The third generation number plates will bear the name of the owner, vehicle registration number, and the Kenyan flag. The number plates will be reflected on the car engine, front and rear, and a third one will be placed on the windscreen.

Screening over a number plate with the machine would produce the name of the owner of the vehicle, the registration number, engine and chassis numbers, and the particulars of previous owners.

On the other hand, the licences are capable of storing the driver’s history, which can be accessed by police and insurance companies, among other agencies, by simply inserting the card in a portable hand-held machine.

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