Detectives camp at DP Ruto’s office over fake tender probe
One of the foreigners at the centre of a Sh39 billion fake arms tender scandal yesterday led detectives to the office of Deputy President William Ruto where he reconstructed his previous visit and identified some of the officials and offices where they met.
The detectives from the Serious Crimes Unit at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters accompanied Mamdouh Amir to Harambee House Annex at around 9.40am where he showed them how they found their way to the well-guarded building’s second floor, accompanied by former Sports Cabinet secretary Rashid Echesa and two other men.
This happened as the Deputy President issued a statement last evening denying that he had an appointment with Echesa and his team, adding that he never stepped in his office at Harambee House Annex on Thursday last week when the former minister visited.
“The Deputy President was not at the office as he was working from his Karen one before he left to attend a funeral in Murang’a. On checking his diary, there was no such appointment,” the DP’s Secretary of Communication David Mugonyi said.
He added: “The Office of the Deputy President is a public office which by operation receives visitors and access to the premises is subject to strict security protocols that apply to government installations in that category. Anyone who accesses the ODP is duly documented and proper records of the particulars of all visits including CCTV footage taken.”
The Department of Defence also issued a statement saying the alleged tender documents in possession of detectives investigating the scam, and which have been given to the media, never originated from the Department of Defence (DoD).
The DoD Director of Public Communication Bogita Ongeri said it had been established that the complainants had never interacted with any official mandated to represent the Ministry of Defence.
“Investigators and complainants in the matter visited (Ulinzi House) the Ministry of Defence headquarters to ascertain the offices they allegedly accessed,” Ongeri said.
“In this regard, the ministry distances itself from the alleged involvement in the fake arms procurement scam,” he added.
“The Ministry of Defence wishes to reiterate that we have an elaborate procurement process and structures that ensure transparency and accountability of any procurement process as guided by the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act (2016).
The Ministry of Defence is very concerned that a session of the media are creating a narrative that is scandalous and libelous in spite of what is clearly a fraudulent and criminal act. The Ministry of Defence intends to seek redress for this matter,” the statement read in part.
Earlier yesterday, a team of detectives visited Ulinzi House, the DoD headquarters, as they tried to reconstruct the scene where the foreigners were reportedly taken to.
Another visit to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) did not yield much as the foreigners could not identify the floor they were taken to.
“They were picked from the ground floor of the KICC by some security personnel but they could not remember the floor. The host was a female politician,” one of the detectives said.
At Ruto’s office, detectives reviewed CCTV cameras and took away the footage. They also interrogated officials who handled the visitors last week for hours.
The team, led by the head of Serious Crimes Unit Obadiah Kuria, however, declined to comment on the investigations.
All this was taking place as Echesa was formally charged in a Nairobi court with 12 counts relating to the alleged fraud.
Yesterday, detectives continued with the investigations in a bid to establish how the whole scheme was executed.
According to the detectives, the suspects drove to the Harambee House Annex with the two foreigners last Thursday morning in a Range Rover.
From the parking lot, the foreigners were taken to the lift lobby, without being screened. They took the VIP lift to the second floor where the DP’s office is located.
They went past the security detail, the DP’s personal assistant and the secretary’s office as they proceeded to the boardroom.
They were then served tea as they waited for the “Deputy President” who was to witness the signing of the contract documents. They, however, did not manage to meet him.
But Ruto’s statement denying that Echesa and the two investors accessed his boardroom, contradicted the explanation given by the visitors who said they were taken to his board room where they signed documents on the deal.
The brief from Ruto’s office yesterday indicated that Echesa and the two foreigners went to DP’s office on Thursday at 9.39.05am and left at 10.02am.
Echesa had claimed that he had an appointment with the DP and the security officers manning the reception ushered him and the two men to the public waiting room.
Ruto’s spokesman Mugonyi said the DCI had written to Harambee House Annex requesting access and review of the CCTV footage, which request was granted and officers facilitated the review of the entire footage and interview of the security personnel who were on duty.
He said that on the material day, the DP was not scheduled to work from Harambee House Annex and did not visit the premises at any point
“The Deputy President was not scheduled to meet with the former Cabinet Secretary, neither did Echesa have any appointment,” he said
He further said Echesa and his team did not meet did not meet any officer who works for the Deputy President other than security officers manning the reception.
“Chief of Staff Ken Osinde, Private Secretary Reuben Maiyo and personal assistant Farouk Kibet were not in Harambee House Annex on the material day as alleged by the media,” Mugonyi said.
He added that Echesa and the foreigners did not access any other office other than the public waiting room. “When he was told that the Deputy President was not in, Echesa and the two men left.”
Mugonyi said the office of the Deputy President “does not procure goods and services for any State department or entities, neither does it provide legal, technical or facilitative services for signing agreements, let alone in its public waiting room.”