, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 31 – The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) Board was on Thursday put to task by three parliamentary committees to explain why it supported the cancellation of the controversial tender to a Chinese firm for the construction of the Sh55billion second airport terminal at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The board chairman Martin Wambora had a rough time before the Budget, Finance and Transport Parliamentary committees after he was unable to convince the MPs why the Greenfield Terminal tender had been cancelled.
He said the board saw it important to cancel the tender after the management privately notified the Chinese firm, Anhui Construction Engineering Group of China that it had won the tender despite having quoted higher price of $653 million contrary to the initial master plan budget of $500 million which the board had approved.
“Our interpretation as a board is that, it’s not the procurement rules which were infringed; it’s just that the end result of this process was not competitive at all. No law is broken but remember we are talking of Sh55 billion,” Wambora said in defence of the board.
MP Edwin Yinda who is a member of the Transport Committee insisted that the board’s decision was not based on law, arguing that there must have been external forces which wanted someone else to be awarded the tender.
Yinda: You were aware that there was something happening underground and you had no interest at all even to call the MD and ask him what was going on?
Wambora: They were very mean with information Mr chairman. But from February this year, we now could get access to the documents and that is where we saw a red light with over three hundred queries sent by other bidders who had lost.
The three committees led by the parliamentary transport committee chair David Were also wanted to understand why the board earlier this week suspended KAA managing director Stephen Gichuki.
Wambora said there were sensitive documents that needed to be protected.
Were: What is this you were trying to hide by sending the MD away and even locking his office with very huge padlocks and keeping the secretaries away?
Wambora: Hon chairman… we were really scared of the way our documents have been finding their way from KAA headquarters; that scared us a lot. We had to safeguard them.
Wambora however insisted that the board will still push for the process to be started afresh through the courts.
Earlier, suspended KAA managing director Stephen Gichuki had appeared before the same committees expressing his disappointment with the board for keeping him out of office ever after the court ordered the board to allow him back.
Gichuki said he received a letter from the Transport Permanent Secretary Cyrus Njiru sending him on compulsory leave, but he went to court and received an order allowing him to resume work.
“I am still wondering what is wrong, yet this project is very urgent. I have been frustrated Mr Chairman for no reason, and I hope interventions from key stakeholders will help in hastening this process,” Gichuki told the meeting.
He complained that even after the Attorney General and the Prime Minister cleared the process, the board was still hesitant to allow the process to continue and went ahead with its cancellation as advised by the Transport Minister Amos Kimunya.
MPs also questioned the role of another Chinese company said to have been denied the tender, after it presented its bid 30 minutes late.
The Chinese company, China State Corporation, was locked out for flouting procurement rules, with the suspended MD, saying there was no way he could have admitted a bid that was presented late.
Gichuki told the committee that top officials at the ministry kept asking him on several occasions why the company had been locked out, and it had presented its bid only five minutes late and that he sensed that is where the whole problem started.
But the board said it was not aware of the said company which lost the bid. One hundred and ten companies had applied but only five were short listed.
The committee now plans to interrogate officials from the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA), the Attorney General and officials from the Prime Minister’s office on Tuesday next week, to delve deeper into the matter.