Kenya Prisons lost Sh6bn in tender scams

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DCI chief George Kinoti has launched investigations into a Sh6.5 billion scandal at the Prisons department.

Yesterday, DCI officers joined EACC investigators and 26 government auditors from the National Treasury, Interior ministry and the office of the Auditor General, among others, who have been probing suspicious spending. They seek to piece together details that could mimic the infamous NYS scandal.

Correctional Services PS Zeinab Hussein flagged the irregularities three months ago when she took over the office.

At the heart of the investigations are the Sh6.2 billion pending bills from the last financial year and Sh2 billion for prisoners’ food, which was cleared last year though still marked as a pending bill.

Also under scrutiny are past and present contracts and tenders that had been awarded irregularly. Hussein has warned that individual officers who flouted the public procurement and asset disposal law will be held to account.

“When I came in on July 24, 2018, I found tender contracts, which were to be signed over 45 days before my entry, had not been signed. This was an anomaly. As a new accounting officer, it was difficult to sign contracts that should have been signed one and half months ago. I didn’t sign but decided to form a task force to review the contracts,” she said.

 Principal Secretary State Department of Correctional Services Zeinab Hussein  during civic education on political participation of women in Mombasa county at royal court hotel in Mombasa on February 27,2017.Photo / JOHN CHESOLI

On analysing the more than Sh6 billion, the team found there was a breach in the advertisement, evaluation and award. Suppliers had been called to bid for 2018-19 supplies in March.

Of 620 suppliers, 376 qualified. On May 29, successful bidders were issued with notification letters. Only 98 accepted the offers — meaning in 14 days, tender contracts should have been signed, as there were no appeals.

According to documents seen by the Star, the process had commenced without prior preparation and approval of the department’s procurement plan and budget. This was in violation of Section 45( 3 ) of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015.

The documents show that members who took part in the opening of the tenders were also part of the evaluation. Notification of intention to enter into contracts with successful tenderers was done by the head of procurement and not the accounting officers as required by the procurement law.

There was no information on who constituted or formed the tender opening and evaluation committees and no professional opinions.

Also, tenders had been amended to include building materials, which were not in the original tender documents.

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Through September 13 and October 4 letters to Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) and the AG, Zeinab sort legal advice on how to proceed.

“We, therefore, find that the subject procurement has been tainted with irregularities and most of the anomalies are fatal and cannot be remedied to allow the process to continue… Progressing the subject procurements will be null and void abi initio,” PPRA director general M J Juma said in an October 2 letter.

She said their interpretation showed the department had also purchased food without valid contracts in 2017-18. The tender has been suspended.

“As we speak, that tender remains suspended and is under investigation by both our officers, those from the PPRA, the DCI and the EACC. Contravening procurement law isn’t just an irregularity but also an illegality. So once investigating agencies are done with their work, proper actions will be taken and those who broke the law will be held to account,” Hussein said.

The investigations will also cover how proceeds from the Directorate of Prisons Enterprise has been spent. It has an annual income of more than Sh600 million, has been spent.

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