Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Nick Mwendwa was on Wednesday at pains to explain how he was not involved in the procurement of a company for the 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan) supplies in a deal that may have seen the government lose Sh165 million.
Mwendwa was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly that is considering the report of the Auditor-General over the procurement issues in the State Department for Sports for the 2017/18 financial year.
The procurement for the supply, delivery and installation of security, access control, communications, audiovisual and pitch lighting systems in various Stadiums was flagged in the Auditor-General’s report for the year 2017/18, as unsupported expenditure.
Although Mwendwa tried to distance himself from the procurement, a letter he wrote to the Ministry of Sports recommending Auditel Engineering and Services is all PAC, a watchdog committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, needed to pin him down.
“We are requesting your office to facilitate us with the necessary support in terms of procurement procedure and approval in line with the legal framework to use Auditel Engineering and services as the special service vendor,” Mr Mwendwa said in the May 29, 2020 letter to then Sports, Culture and Arts PS Kirimi Kaberia.
The Championship was to be held in Kenya in 2018, but it was moved to Morocco after the country delayed in the preparation of stadia on time as advised by the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
In the preparation for the competition, Caf had recommended the use of the company for installation of integrated access control, security, floodlights and ICT systems.
Caf, just like Fifa, does not communicate to governments directly but does it through bodies like FKF.
In this case, FKF was only required to attach the Caf recommendation to the Ministry of Sports on the choice of the companies. Instead, it went on to recommend the company.
According to PAC, Mwendwa through FKF CEO Robert Muthomi, wrote another letter to the then Sports PS Kaberia recommending the use of Gregory International as a preferred vendor in assessing the various stadia around the country.
But when told by Garissa Township MP Aden Duale, a member of PAC, to account for the letters, he denied any role in the procurement.
“You are here because of the loss of public funds. Who gave you the powers to write a letter to the PS recommending the use of a company without tendering?” Mr Duale posed.
Mwendwa defended his role saying that he only passed on the recommendation from Caf to the PS, but was left tongue-tied after Suna West MP Peter Masara reminded him that recommending companies for tenders is also part of procurement.
“FKF did not do any procurement. It was done by the State department for Sports and Sports Kenya and the contract was between the government and the companies involved,” the FKF President told the committee.
However, Duale was not satisfied by the response and accused the FKF boss of being part of the corruption syndicate robbing the public at the ministry of Sports.
“This is part of the corruption web you first started by preparing your external collaborators. You cannot run away because you were in the middle of this procurement. Your own letters are indictments to yourself,” said Mr Duale, even as Mwendwa vehemently denied the accusation.
According to the Auditor-General’s report, the genesis of the procurement irregularity started on September 14, 2017 when the State Department Sports awarded the contract to a firm at Sh1.61 billion.
The works were to be completed within four months and involved remodeling of five stadia.
They included Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos, Moi Kinoru Stadium in Meru, Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi and 10 training pitches that were earmarked for use during the Chan tourney.
The audit notes that a review of the State Department’s payment records for the year ended June 30, 2018, disclosed that the firm was paid a 20 percent advance payment of Sh330.54 million.
The advance payment was based on a security guarantee issued by a Bank in Madrid- Spain dated October 30, 2017.
It was however noted that the security guarantee was only valid up to February 28, 2018 and had therefore expired at the time of the audit in November 2018 and no evidence was presented to confirm its re-validation, meaning that the government may not recover the money paid.