Backstabbing, skullduggery alleged in DCI Mombasa Port probe

Coast leaders led by Kilifi North MP, Owen Baya (centre) addressing the Media at a Mombasa hotel where they defended KPA senior managers over corruption allegations by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

A port workers’ union has claimed the ongoing investigations into the corruption allegations at the Mombasa port could have been triggered by a cut-throat competition for a share of containers.

Dock Workers Union (DWU) general secretary Simon Sang claimed it was common for owners of container freight stations (CFSs) who fail to secure their anticipated share of container allocation from the port to frame Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managers who have authority to distribute the cargo boxes to the private facilities.

Yesterday, Sang argued that the union believed the investigations over container smuggling and tax evasion claims against KPA General Manager Operations Sudi Mwasinago and Acting Principal Officer operations Evans Akunava were political.

“This is a common disease between KPA managers and CFS owners. Former KPA Managing Director Simon Mkalla faced a similar accusation and was later replaced,” said Sang.

Sang argued that tax claim was a function of the Kenya Revenue Authority.

“The Government through National treasury should ask KPA and KRA to have an airtight tax system,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sang claimed the fluctuating performance on Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)-bound containers at the port was due to a lack of incentives among port workers and confusion on the interpretation of a court ruling on the mode of container carriage.

Reports at the port indicated that the cargo hauled by train to Nairobi has on average dropped from 25,000 to 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) monthly, causing concern to the Government.

Earlier Coast politicians also read malice in how the detectives were conducting investigations on corruption at the port of Mombasa. The politicians claimed the probe on suspected cargo smuggling and tax evasion was skewed to fix KPA General Manager Sudi Mwasinago, who assumed the position in May this year.

Officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) investigated a scandal involving 130 containers between February and September this year. MPs Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita), Mishi Mboko (Likoni), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Omar Mwinyi (Changamwe), Owen Baya (Kilifi North) and Teddy Mwambire of Ganze wondered why the DCI wanted Mwasinago and Acting Principal Operations Officer Evans Akunava to step aside even before they get substantial evidence.

Nassir and Mboko, who spoke separately over the weekend, said the two had not been arraigned and that it was a plot to kick the two officers from office.

“We see this investigation as skewed and unfair. If revenue was lost, why has KRA not stated how much was lost and who is responsible? Also, the two officers were not in office during the period under investigation,” said Nassir, Chairman of the Public Investment Committee (PIC).

Mboko claimed the investigation amounted to the victimisation of the two senior port workers, and hence members of PIC will discuss the matter next week.

“As MPs, we are ready to defend an employee being victimised. Sudi is experienced and comes from a marginalised community that is why he is being targeted,” said Mboko.

Separately, Mwashetani questioned why the DCI had not investigated the KRA officers, importer, clearing and forwarding agent and the Container Freight Stations (CFSs) over the alleged smuggling and tax evasion.

“As a clearing and forwarding agent, I wonder why the DCI is only targeting Mwasinago and Akunava while the standard procedure is that KRA collects taxes at the CFSs,” said Mwashetani.

The MP questioned the absence of KRA and importers in the probe while they are critical in the tax collection at the port. The MPs expressed concern over the prosecution of Mwasinago and Akunavi in the Media, claiming it was a scheme to kick the officers out of the port.

“KPA has a board of directors, and it would be only fair if it had invited the DCI to carry out the investigation. What is happening at the moment is malicious,” said Changamwe MP.

Baya and Mwambire claimed the authority of KPA got lost after it was integrated with Kenya Pipeline Company and Kenya Railway Authority under the Kenya Transport Logistics Network. At the same time, leaders from Kadu Asili, Umoja Summit Party of Kenya (USPK), Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) and United Democratic Party (UDP) claimed witch-hunt in the probe over the Sh3 billion tender for an electronic cargo clearance system at the port.

“We suspect that Mwasinago is a victim of harassment over the controversial Sh3 billion tender. It is a scheme to get him out of the port because he is seen as an obstacle,” said USPK national chairman Matano Chengo.

According to a joint statement read out by UDP chairman Mkala Chitavi, the tax evasion claims were a fabrication.