The Star (Nairobi)

30 May 2014

Kenya: MPs Query Safaricom Security Project Tender

MPs have questioned why Safaricom was awarded the tender to build the multibillion sophisticated security surveillance and communications system without following the law.

The MPs have also threatened to block the project unless the truth behind it is told.

The members of the Administration and National Security committee that is chaired by Tiaty MP Asman Kamama said the award of the Sh14.9 billion project was shrouded in mastery and therefore cannot be approved by Parliament because the law was violated.

They said awarding the tender to Safaricom was a security risk because Vodacom, a foreign firm is the majority shareholding in the company.

Wajir West MP Abdikadir Mohammed said if the project goes through as planned, it will provide room for foreign nations to spy on Kenya.

“We must be told why Safaricom, a commercial entity must handle sensitive security matters and why it must be trusted to manage security surveillance. That is our irreducible minimum and we will insist that it doesn’t take off until it is given a clean bill of health by this committee and parliament,” said Abongotum.

The MPs also took issue with the Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Lenku and his PS Mutea Iringo for absconding invitations before the committee to clear the air on the awarding of the project.

Lenku was said to be in Kigali- Rwanda attending a security conference while Iringo “deliberately” failed to represent his minister in the guise of attending a national breakfast prayer “that was not mandatory for him to attend.”

Iringo chaired a committee that evaluated the system that will first be implemented in Nairobi and Mombasa, the two cities hard hit by acts of terror and other organized crimes.

The system includes a system of spy cameras linked to computers, will analyze faces and other data to help identify and track suspects. It is also meant to link all security agencies, making it easier to share information and direct police operations.

Safaricom is required to develop a system for surveillance analysis, command and control for police in Nairobi and Mombasa to boost the capacity of security agencies in the fight against terrorism.

Yesterday, Kamama said that the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act of 2005 were clear that single sourcing can only be exploited if there is only one company available for the project or in case of an emergency.

“The exceptions of single sourcing are clear and to the best of my knowledge there is no emergency and there are many local and international companies that can supply the services. Anything awarded must be above board,” he said yesterday.

Kamama further questioned why Sh14.9 billion had been earmarked for the two cities when the initial arrangement was to roll out the surveillance across the 47 counties at a cost of Sh17 billion.

The minister was required to explain the processes lead up to the award of the project, the background of the previous surveillance tenders, the safety of the system from hacking and plans to implement to other parts of the country.

However, the meeting was adjourned to Thursday next week but not without a swipe at the cabinet secretary and his PS for not taking seriously the business of the committee.

The Wajir West MP said that the two must be censured if they fail to appear and explain the nature and the processes involved in awarding the project.

“As members we have a busy schedule in our constituencies to attend to. They should explain why they are not giving the committee the seriousness it requires,” Abdikadir said.

Westlands MP Timothy Wanyonyi said that it was the height of impunity. “If they are unavailable they should communicate in good time. We have the powers to reduce their budget if they don’t cooperate,” he said.

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