CS on the spot for hiring toilets at Sh2.3m, diverting helicopter
Water Cabinet Secretary (CS) Sicily Kariuki diverted a chopper hired by the National Youth Service (NYS) at a cost of Sh7.7 million to take her to Windsor Hotel for a private function, a parliamentary watchdog committee was told yesterday.
To add insult to injury, the committee was told she hired mobile toilets for Sh2.3 million for a one day function in Gilgil, Nakuru county.
The chopper had been hired by the NYS to transport members of staff to various destinations, the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee ( PAC) heard.
The incident, the MPs were told, happened when Kariuki was serving as the CS in charge of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs.
The committee also heard how the CS authorised the expenditure of Sh2.3 million for hiring mobile toilets for a day’s meeting of Sacco members, which she presided over at Gilgil NYS Training College.
Testifying before the committee, chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi that was considering the Auditor General’s report for the 2017/2018 financial year, Public Service Principal Secretary (PS) Mary Kimonye and NYS Director General Matilda Sakwa resisted pressure from MPs to name Kariuki as the CS who had used the chopper.
At one point, the increasingly exasperated MPs warned Kimonye against protecting Kariuki and instead name her, failing which they would cite the PS as a hostile witness.
While urging Kimonye to let Kariuki carry her cross, MPs made it clear that they will summon the CS to appear before them to shed light on the said procurements, which they termed as outrageous.
Said Wandayi: “This matter of hiring toilets, as we can clearly see is a litany of irregularities, illegalities and impunity by the CS, yet this was her meeting. With this, it goes down without say that Kariuki, who was responsible for the hiring of the toilets is the same CS who used the helicopter for her detour to Windsor hotel.”
He added: “Madam PS, please confirm to this committee that the person who used the helicopter in question was the CS. If you wish you can go with this statement before you confirm it to us tomorrow when you appear before us.
And please before you answer the question, remember if you continue to be protective of her, this can go down on you very badly.” Garissa Township MP Aden Duale also demanded that Kimonye reveals the name of the person who boarded the helicopter as well as the owner of the aircraft.
“You cannot hide the details from us, if we want to know who this person is, we will know, we will just call Kenya Airports Authority and get the manifest. We can also get this information from the intelligence person who was present when the CS boarded the helicopter,” said Duale. Nameless person
He added: “We are only telling you to say the name of the person who boarded the helicopter, nothing else. Please tell us who this person is.” Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo also took issue with Kimonye’s failure to reveal the name of the person who boarded the helicopter.
“You cannot tell me for all these years madam PS you have never been bothered to know who is this nameless person who used the helicopter. If you continue like this the committee will cite you,” warned Oundo.
In her response, the PS said: “Please allow me to go back and get the details before I respond.” Earlier, Sakwa, without mentioning names, had told the committee that it was a CS who used the helicopter but declined to give further details on the matter, after Kimonye told her not to drop people’s names without being sure, whether the information she was sharing was factual.
The use of the helicopter emerged after the report of the Auditor General for the year ending June 2018, revealed the invoice billed and paid for the helicopter services included an invoice for Windsor Hotel as part of the itinerary covered, which was not in the approved route.
It is against this background that Kimonye told the committee that “there was a senior officer coming from a field activity to an official function at Windsor.”
She continued: “The State department issued a Local Service Order (LSO) for the helicopter hire services.”
Prequalified firms On the hiring of the toilets, Kimonye and Sakwa were at pains to explain to MPs how the tender was authorised yet this expenditure was not budgeted for. In particular, Wandayi and Oundo demanded to know how the CS could authorise Sh2.3 million to be spent to hire toilets without following due process.
“It is clear she did not seek any authority from the National Authority to regularise this budget as it was not budgeted for. We will be calling her so that we can deal with her,” WAndayi said.
Added Oundo: “I am at a loss to understand why they had to hire toilets to be used at the NYS Gilgil, yet there are toilets there.” But in her response, Sakwa defended the tender, saying it was urgent as the CS in her capacity as the authorising officer in matters relating to human resources, called for the meeting to resolve a matter, which was not planned for, adding that there were no prequalified firms.
“It is correct that the account charged for the expenditure was not the right one. The station did not have funds in the right account by the time of procuring the service. Reallocation could not be sought because of the time factor. This failure is attributable to the time factor and is regretted,” she said.
According to the Auditor General, the expenditure was charged to the account of specialised materials, implying that it was not budgeted for in correct account code.
Further, the letter of invitation listed the attendees from various stations whose attendance registers were not provided in support of the expenditure. At the same time, the MPs were shocked to learn that NYS gave a non-registered company a tender to supply watermelons worth Sh500,000.
According to the Auditor General, the LPO was issued on January 5, 2016 four months before the said enterprise was registered. But in her response, Kimonye defended NYS, saying the contracts for the supply of fruits, among others, are pre-qualified by the office of the deputy county commissioner-Gilgil.