NAIROBI: Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has now ordered detectives to interrogate print journalists of the country's top media houses for exposing a fresh parliamentary investigation into Sh3.8 billion controversial payments that the Auditor General Edward Ouko has questioned.
Included in the payments is Sh370 million that was paid to Lom Praha Trade through the National Bank of Kenya. Lom Praha is the Czech company that got the tender to overhaul helicopters, a tender which is under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission over irregular procurement.
Journalists from The Standard, The Daily Nation and The Star all received a phone calls early Thursday ordering them to appear at the Directorate of Criminal Investigation to tell the detectives where they got the information regarding the hurried payments of which Sh2 billion was made on the last day of the 2014-15 financial year.
A detective who identified himself as John Kariuki said he had "orders" to "talk to the journalists" over the story.
"I would like to talk to you about this story you have written on the Sh3.8 billion payments for security items. I am told that information was not tabled in the committee, and therefore I would like you to come to CID headquarters at 2.30pm," the detective said.
The controversial payments are detailed in an August 26, 2015 letter that the Auditor General Edward Ouko wrote to the Principal Secretary of Interior Monica Juma seeking evidence that the payments were actually made for actual goods and services rendered. The letter is titled 'Procurement of Security Items'.
The auditor looked at the schedule of payments where all but two payments were made on June 30, 2015 when the last financial year closed, and realized that there were major gaps. The auditor also sought to investigate the accounts in the Kenya Commercial Bank where the payments were made.
"Initial observations have revealed that these vouchers were not adequately supported as required under section 5.5.13 and 5.5.14 of the Government Financial Regulations and Procedures. The audit is incomplete due to lack of tender documents and other records that we requested in the above mentioned letter. In addition, we would wish to review bank statements for Kenya Commercial Bank 9KCB) Account No. 1109896077 for the period starting July 2014 to August 2015," reads the letter.
The letter was read in an open sitting of the Public Accounts Committee by the interim chair Junet Mohammed (Suna East) in the presence of the Cabinet Secretary (Nkaissery) and his two principal secretaries Monica Juma (Interior) and Josephta Mukobe (National Government Coordination) plus even the Director of Immigration Gordon Kihalangwa. Junet was sitting in for the substantive chairperson Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda).
The queries arose because the bulk of the payments worth about Sh2 billion were all made in one day – June 30, 2015 – the last day of the last financial year, and paid into accounts at the Kenya Commercial Bank and the National Bank of Kenya to be held for suppliers.
Another payment of Sh1.6 billion to Pioneer Insurance was made on September 19, 2014, while Sh245 million was paid on March 3 this year to Steyr Mannlincher (Deftech Limited) for unspecified security items.
The money, the Interior bosses claimed, was paid to Chinese, Israeli and even local car subsidiaries with DT Dobie getting Sh59 million while Toyota Kenya got Sh56 million.
Augusta Westlands SPA was paid Sh683 million, ISPRA/ISRAEL Product research company was paid Sh272 million, Ecta was paid Sh31 million, Israel Weapon Industries was paid Sh94 million, Lom Praha trade was paid Sh370 million, Jino Motors was paid Sh86 million, Polytechnologies inc was paid Sh202 million, Silver Shadow Advanced Security Systems was paid Sh22 million, and China North Industres Corp Sh101 million. Most of these payments were made to a KCB account in one day -- the last day of the financial year 2015.
The Principal Media Relations Officer in Parliament Martin Mutua asked parliamentary journalists to ignore the summons, because not even the House Committee had complained.
"Please be advised that parliamentary reporting both in committee and at the plenary are privileged and reporters enjoy full and unfettered privileges and immunity," said Mutua in a brief dispatch.