NAIROBI, August 14 – The controversial sale of the Grand Regency Hotel to the Libyan government could have been influenced by decisions made by top government officials, the Commission investigating the sale heard Thursday.
Counsel Harrison Kinyanjui, representing Westmont Limited, tabled letters signed by top officials of the two countries in which the hotel was one of business interests the Libyans wanted to pursue.
However in her testimony before the Justice Majjid Cockar-led Commission, Deputy Director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Fatuma Sichale denied that the sale was in the picture during the transfer of the hotel from Kamlesh Pattni to the Central Bank of Kenya.
“Before we recorded the consent, and immediately after, I had never heard of any Libyan investor,” Sichale stated.
She rejected a claim by Kinyanjui that the hotel’s transfer was expedited after the signing of an agreement between the two governments in June last year. She also denied knowledge of whether Pattni had been paid to relinquish the hotel.
The Deputy Director nevertheless stated that Central Bank Governor, Njuguna Ndung’u had made certain references to the Libyan interests in one letter from the CBK to KACC.
“It did not matter to the Anti Corruption Commission whether the hotel was sold to Kenyans or foreigners, what was important was that the hotel be sold within the law,” she added.
Sichale confirmed to the Commission that in one of the meetings after the transfer, the Governor expressed a need to dispose the hotel.
The Deputy Director reiterated that her boss, Aaron Ringera had cautioned the Governor over any contravention of the law in any disposal.
Ringera, she said, mandated her to ensure that the sale complied with the Public Procurement and Disposal Act.
She nevertheless fell out with the CBK’s legal advisor Kennedy Abuga and counsel Adan Ahmed (representing Pattni) after they resisted the application of the Privatisation Act in the sale, which according to her was the only law applicable.
The Public Procurement and Disposal Act does not cover disposal of immovables and as such could not have been used in the sale, she added.
“When I pointed out that the Privatization Act was the way to go, I noticed that there was a lot of discomfort. This marked the end of any engagement with CBK,” Sichale stated.
The Commission also heard that the hotel never changed ownership but rather the management.
“CBK suggested that the hotel be sold while still in the name of Uhuru Highway Limited but the bank was the one to determine the price,” she said.