Airtel-Telkom merger on the spot over EACC probe
The Telkom-Airtel merger probe took a new twist after it emerged yesterday that anti-graft agency Ethics and Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) worked behind the back of a parliamentary committee to clear the deal.
Appearing before the Senate Committee on ICT yesterday, Telkom chief executive officer Mugo Kibati said the merger was on course and will be concluded before the end of the year.
He said the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) had given a green light to the process and thus paving way for CA, the industry regulator, to kick start the process.
Kibati told the Senate Committee chaired by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi that EACC had halted investigations into the issues raised by the National Assembly committee after it established that Telkom was a private company, which had the liberty to enter into the commercial agreement.
He said the EACC wrote to the CA last week giving the merger a clean bill of health.
“The investigating agency realised that Telkom is a private owned company and is not holding government assets or liabilities,” said Kibati.
But the National Assembly Committee on Implementation, which has been probing the matter, summoned the EAAC and CA to appear before it to shed light on Kibati’s revelations.
The committee chaired by Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta had asked the anti-corruption agency to investigate how the merger deal was arrived at.
“We had asked the EACC to see to it that government interests at Telkom would be safeguarded after the merger is concluded,” he said.
The Senate committee heard that the anti -graft agency had ruled that Telkom is a private company jointly owned by the government with 40 per cent of the stake and Helios Investors Fund with 60 per cent ownership, through Jamhuri Holdings limited.
But talking after the senate meeting, Kenta criticised the move by EACC terming it irregular.
“The whole matter needs to be investigated afresh. The EACC which is expected to safeguard public resources is abetting theft of the same,” he said.
Kenta said when EACC appeared before his committee earlier, told members that its investigations had found out that the Telkom shares were irregularly transferred to France Telkom.
“They told us that the transfer itself was a wrong and that criminal proceedings will be opened against those who took part, only to clear the process behind our backs,” he added.
He added that his committee gave them time to probe the matter to its full conclusion “even if it meant going round the world and report to us the findings”.
Ironically, Telkom despite being private owned continued to benefit from budgetary allocations from the exchequer.
Kibati said the company has been disposing off its assets to support its operations over the years.
In 2014, another parliamentary committee had criticised the National Treasury for allowing the reducing the government shareholding in Telkom Kenya by Telkom France.
The Public Investments Committee (PIC) under the chairmanship of Adan Keynan (Eldas) concluded that the Treasury might have colluded with faceless individuals to dilute the government shareholding in the company.