The commission inquiring into the Ngong helicopter crash was yesterday told how the tender committee that procured the ill-fated Eurocopter ignored advice given by then Internal Security PS Francis Kimemia to consult an approved list of aircraft manufacturers. A chief finance officer at the police headquarters, John Wambugu, told the commission probing the crash that the tender committee did not consult the Administration Police department which had the approved list of helicopters.
Appearing before the commission, Wambugu admitted that both the ministerial tender committee and the tender evaluation committee never bothered to consult the AP department and instead sought advice of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. While being cross-examined by Saitoti family lawyer Fred Ngatia, the witness told the commission that they had to exercise their own discretion in selecting which aircraft to buy. "We were not sure where the AP had sourced their list of manufacturers and so we chose to exercise our own discretion," said Wambugu.
The witness was the chairman of the technical evaluation committee that finally gave the nod for the police to buy the Eurocopter. The helicopter crashed on June 10 killing Cabinet minister George Saitoti, his assistant Orwa Ojode, two police pilots and two police bodyguards. Wambugu said the police department did not have a list of approved helicopter manufacturers and added that they were not bound by advice of their seniors on how to carry out the tender process. The commission was told that the technical evaluation committee did not act outside the law by carrying out restricted tender even after the Kimemia had objected to having a direct tendering from the Eurocopter manufacturers.
The ministerial tender committee was the one that had wanted to single source for the helicopter, according to Wambugu. He said the PS was uncomfortable with direct tendering. "Request to seek for restricted tender was based on technical recommendation from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. KCAA had advised that Eurocopter and Bell models were widely used in Kenya," added Wambugu
The witness who was being grilled by Ngatia said the tender committee considered time factor in settling for two bidders whom they would chosen one to supply the helicopter. The team only settled for Eurocopter and Africair in their restricted tender. Africair was to supply a Bell 47 at a cost of Sh315 million while Eurocopter had their chopper at Sh272 million. The police department eventuall settled for the Eurocopter.
The commission will resume next week on Thursday after lead counsels requested for more time to prepare witnesses. More than 200 witnesses are expected to testify at the commission. Four witnesses have so far testified in the first week.