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Panic grips top officials at KPA as graft arrests loom

By Murimi Mutiga
Monday, November 18th, 2019 06:44 | 4 mins read
Port of Mombasa. PhotoPD/FILE

There is tension at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) headquarters in Mombasa as top managers face arrest over multi-billion-shilling corruption allegations.

Sources say the officials, among them managing director Daniel Manduku, who are being investigated over deals amounting to Sh9 billion by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission could be arrested this week.

Some 30 senior officials have been linked to theft of public funds through several irregular deals, including the Sh2.7 billion Makongeni Yard procurement which relates to the purchase of a piece of land for the expansion of Inland Container Depot in Nairobi, and the rehabilitation of the Kisumu Port. 

Others are under probe over theft of Sh6 billion in various illegal tenders.

There are concerns that their arrest and arraignment might result in a management crisis and another change of guard at the troubled parastatal, barely 17 months after Manduku took over following the exit of Catherine Mturi-Wairi. The latter is also under investigation.

KPA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet this week to finalise deliberations on the parastatal’s future in the event of mass arrests. The board is said to have met last week where a way forward was mooted. Manduku reportedly did not attend the meeting.

Several heads of department are among those listed for prosecution.

Scandals at KPA have delayed the re-launch of the Port of Kisumu and commissioning of the first berth of Lamu Port.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is said to have ordered the delay of inauguration of the two projects until corruption investigations are complete.

Because of the probe, some officials are said to be on a go-slow, with some staying away from office to strategise on how to fight the impending cases. Others have reportedly refused to sign any documents relating to money.

Sources say some of the officials are planning to move to court this week to stop the arrests.

File received

Investigations report handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji by DCI George Kinoti recommended that Manduku, General Manager for Operations William Rutto, Principal Civil Engineer Bernard Nyobange, Senior Works Officer Anthony Muhanji and Works Officer Juma Chigulu, among others, be charged over the Makongeni Yard scam.

Haji has confirmed receiving the file. He said a team of experts was reviewing the evidence.

“The file was handed over to us yesterday (Tuesday last week) and we will give directions soon,” he said.

Five other general managers, among them, Addraya Dena (Board and Legal Services), Patrick Nyoike (Finance), Vincent Sidai Esyepet (Infrastructure Development) and Rashid Salim (Engineering Services) have also been questioned. However, most of them have been cleared of any wrong doing and could become State witnesses in the cases.

Kisumu Port 

The Kisumu Port was to be re-launched by Uhuru last Friday but it was postponed indefinitely.

“We have postponed the function until further notice. We were not told why the event was put off but the directive came from State House,” said a senior official at the port.

Investigations revealed there was irregular awarding of repair works tender for Kisumu Port amounting close to Sh800 million.

In his report, Kinoti says the managing director assumed the role of procurement officer in the tendering process, thus violating the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act.

But Manduku says investigations on the Kisumu port are not over and he will be vindicated when they are complete.

Makongeni Yard 

On the Makongeni Yard scandal, the investigating team found out that Sh3 billion set aside for the purchase of land to extend the Inland Container Depot had been diverted for paving on a yard that is not owned by KPA. 

Paving works on Makongeni yard which included leveling, construction of a slab cost Sh500 million, while Sh2 billion was diverted to do dredging of the Mombasa Port channel. The remaining Sh500 million was retained for the purchase of the land. DCI has questioned why KPA carried out paving on a land it does not own.

However, Manduku claims the diversion of funds had been approved by the board. The MD further said KPA had instead leased the land from KRA and the yard gazetted as “Makongeni KPA Peripheral Facility” as a customs area.

“The requisite board approvals were all obtained,” he said. 

Kipevu Terminal

One of the questionable tenders that EACC has been pursuing relates to the new Kipevu Oil Terminal whose cost was allegedly inflated from Sh12 billion to Sh40 billion.  The tender was awarded to China Communication Construction Company.

However, an official at the EACC claimed yesterday that some influential forces are trying to scuttle the case to save officials from prosecution.

Senior officials who spoke on condition of anonymity alleged that the probe on the procurement malpractices had taken long because of impediments placed on the way by cartels.

“Some powerful forces who we suspect, to have benefited from the corruption, have been putting stumbling blocks and interfering with evidence to defeat justice,” said the official.

Tenders under probe include the Sh1.1 billion supply of concrete slabs awarded to 11 firms and the Sh560 million tender to make 10,000 concrete barriers awarded to six firms.

The officials are also being probed over the Sh1.7 billion tugboat tender which has been cancelled following claims of underhand dealings. 

Manduku has linked the corruption allegations at the port to tender wars and witch-hunt but Kinoti has dismissed claims

“These cases will be prosecuted in public. There are no tender wars. Let them reserve those allegations for their defence in court. We have done our part and it is now upon the DPP to decide on the way forward,” he said.

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