New queries on ‘pricey’ Sh43b Kenya military aircraft deal

Sunday February 26 2017

An Air Tractor AT- 802L aircraft. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

An Air Tractor AT- 802L aircraft. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By WALTER MENYA
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Fresh details of how Kenya may have been duped to contract a Texas company L-3 for the delivery of 12 Border Patrol Aircraft have come to light.

The US Congress on Thursday directed its investigative arm, Government Accountability Office (GAO), to determine how the Texas company was awarded the $418 million (Sh43 billion) contract yet it does not modify the said manned aircrafts.

From the documents seen by the Sunday Nation, the contracts were awarded to L-3’s Communications Platform Integration Division based on its claim that it could modify the aircrafts because it was purportedly in partnership with another US company, IOMAX of North Carolina.

From the documents, IOMAX which is owned by disabled veterans, parted ways with L-3 and the two have been operating independently.

L-3, which Kenya awarded the Sh43 billion contract to is a defense contractor and is not in a position to modify and weaponise the type of military aircrafts and other additional equipment that the Kenya Defence Forces was looking for.

IOMAX, according to a letter by the US Congress is the only one known to modify the Archangel border aircrafts that KDF was interested in.

In a letter to the US Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, five members of the US House of Representatives Tedd Budd, Walter B. Jones, Virginia Foxx, Jeff Duncan and Mark Meadows claim that the tender was single sourced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on behalf of the KDF.

SUPPLY EQUIPMENT

Representative Budd has led challenges to the award of the tender saying a firm in the district in North Carolina that he represents, could supply the equipment in a deal that would save taxpayers Sh28.3 billion.

Individuals in the know claim that “the Kenyans single sourced the deal Anglo Leasing style using the cover of national security” and ended up awarding the inflated contract to a company that lacks the experience to do the job.

US ambassador Robert Godec has said no deal has been signed yet. “The government of Kenya has not signed any agreement to purchase aircraft from the United States and the process underway is transparent, open, and proper.  This potential military sale would be carried out wholly in keeping with appropriate laws and regulations.” Mr Godec also said in his statement that Kenya would have the chance to undertake a “line by line” review of the purchase offer before deciding whether to go ahead.

In the letter to Gene Dodaro, the five Representatives claim that the DSCA in cahoots with senior Kenyan military officials did not do due diligence before awarding the contract to L-3.

“Specifically, approval for a foreign military sale was awarded by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency acting on behalf of the Kenyan government for $418 million,” the February 23 letter states. The foreign military sale was notified to Congress by DSCA on January 19, on the eve of President Donald Trump’s swearing in as the 45th US president.

“It is our understanding that this sale may have been awarded to L-3 based on false assumptions made by DSCA  that L-3 manufactures a weaponised, manned ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) platform that fulfils the requirement submitted by the government of Kenya to DCSA,” the letter states.

The Representatives state that they have been made aware that the quoted price of the IOMAX platform (Archangel) to fully complete the parameters stated in the Letter of Request provided to the relevant committees on January 19 is approximately $237 million (Sh24.4 billion)

FULLY ARMED VARIANTS

“We are not aware of any record that validates L-3’s capacity to construct fully armed variants of this aircraft. As such, we believe that that DSCA’s decision to proceed with L-3 as the sole source supplier of these aircraft raises troubling possibilities,” they state.

According to information available, the North Carolina Company was capable of making the 12 aircrafts (AT-802 Air Tractor) and two trainer aircrafts, weapons package, technical support and programme management.

“Kenya wanted 12 military aircrafts reportedly to replace its aging F-5 aircrafts and would be more efficient and able to be pre-positioned much closer to the conflict area than the F-5 fleet,” the DSCA communication to the Congress reads.

In justifying the deal, DSCA states that “The proposed sale provides a needed capability in the ongoing efforts to counter al-Shabaab. The platform maximises the Kenya Defense Force’s Close Air Support (CAS) ability because it is a short field aircraft capable of using precision munitions and cost effective logistics and maintenance.”

But IOMAX has asserted that it was capable of meeting the requirements set out by KDF along with requisite technical support at $237 million.

Congressman Budd states in documents that “the fact base IOMAX has presented to our office suggests that L-3 has possibly engaged in fraudulent representations in the course of marketing itself as an option for these contracts, namely, that the company has represented as its product an aircraft that is in fact produced by IOMAX by using the past history and success of IOMAX products in L-3’s marketing activities.”

According to the documents, L-3’s aircrafts were to undergo certification in 2016 while IOMAX was already in service, supplying 48 aircrafts deployed in the Middle East countries of UAE, Jordan and Egypt. A Kenyan well versed with the matter claims that Kenyan officials could have been involved in inflating the figures.