Alleged anomalies in the procurement of a helicopter that claimed the lives of Internal Security minister George Saitoti and his deputy Orwa Ojodeh took centre stage at the first sitting of a team investigating the crash.
The commission, chaired by Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal, was told there were flaws in the tendering process that saw the Police Air Wing acquire the helicopter from Eurocopter, a South African firm, against a single contender.
The Saitoti family lawyer, Mr Fred Ngatia, took the first witness, Mr Peter Njoroge, who is head of supply at the Office of the President, through a gruelling cross-examination over the acquisition.
Mr Ngatia said the tender had been limited to only two bidders, Eurocopter and Bell, in flagrant disregard to a report by a team of experts that the purchase of security helicopters be decentralised from the Office of the President.
The lawyer said letters between the permanent secretary and Commissioner of Police indicated they had a “predetermined mind” on the kind of craft they wanted bought and from whom, and that the tendering was just a formality.
A letter dated November 11, 2011, from the commissioner to the PS seeking authority to buy the helicopter was presented at the hearing.
The PS wrote back on November 22, saying the helicopter should not be bought directly but through an open tender.
The commission heard that the Kenya Civil Aviation was also contacted for guidelines and later, a special security tender committee sanctioned the purchase.
Mr Njoroge said his team was satisfied with the technical evaluation report on the helicopter that indicated that it was easier to service locally than the one from Bell.
“Cost was also a matter of consideration,” said Mr Njoroge. He said Eurocopter was asking for Sh272.2 million while Bell wanted Sh315 million.
He said the police sent a seven person team, including himself and Ms Nancy Gituanja, a pilot who also died in the crash, to South Africa for a pre-shipment inspection “but we did not conduct an air test”.
“We did not find anything wrong with it,” he said. He confirmed he did not get its safety records.
The second witness, Mr Joel Kiptoo, who is the head of procurement at police headquarters - Vigilance House - also took the commission through the tendering process and denied it was flawed.
The commission intends to call 80 witnesses.
Sittings continue at the KICC on Tuesday.