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Money wrangles threaten preparation for Nairobi WTO summit

Sunday December 6 2015

Workers put final touches to a new entrance to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on July 20, 2015 ahead of US President Barack Obama visit to the country for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. KICC is set to host World Trade Organisation Summit this month. PHOTO | SALATON  NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Workers put final touches to a new entrance to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on July 20, 2015 ahead of US President Barack Obama visit to the country for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. KICC is set to host World Trade Organisation Summit this month. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

OTIATO GUGUYU
By OTIATO GUGUYU
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The battle for the control of Sh1.5 billion for the World Trade Organisation conference has broken out at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) board, which has seen the suspension of Managing Director Fred Simiyu.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that some board members have been angling to influence various tenders while a number of senior KICC officials have also been accused of demanding kickbacks from suppliers ahead of the historic WTO ministerial conference that is being held in Africa for the first time. The meeting starts from December 15 to 18.

But according to KICC chairman Omingo Magara, Mr Simiyu was asked to leave after preparations for the conference fell behind schedule.

The General Manager (operations) Joel Terer has been appointed in acting capacity to oversee the success of the event.

“Mr Simiyu was asked to step aside because of inefficiencies. Management is now on top of issues and we are in top gear to deliver,” Mr Magara told Sunday Nation.

He stated that the inefficiencies were being investigated and details would come out later.

KICKBACKS

A board member, who spoke in confidence, claimed that the foot-dragging was partly because some officials were asking for kickbacks before approving crucial tenders to continue as scheduled. 

But other sources within the board indicate that Mr Simiyu was asked to step aside after he disagreed with highly placed board members.

“Some board members were arm-twisting the tender committee on procurement of video, audio and various IT (information technology) equipment to facilitate the conference,” said our source.

According to details obtained by Sunday Nation, plans had been made to have KICC stream the conference live to Geneva, a move that would require upgrading the existing infrastructure at Tsavo Hall, the amphitheatre and syndicate offices where select groups will be meeting for negotiations.

With just two weeks to the first WTO conference on African soil, trouble on whether to hire or buy equipment apparently split the board as vested interests took shape.

According to sources privy to the fallout, the Ministry of Tourism has requisitioned Sh1.2 billion for the final leg of the preparations which sparked the wrangles.

Out of the Sh1.2 billion, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie, who was recently transferred to the Labour docket, had only released Sh300 million.

On November 19, the ministry, under whose docket KICC falls, sent Sh75 million while Sh80 million went to Bomas of Kenya and the remainder was spent at the ministry.

The bigger chunk of the money, which is yet to be wired, is expected to finish preparations for the meeting. This was the first time such a big allocation had gone to KICC.

“A member of the board has interests in supplying the equipment that is supposed to be used during the WTO conference and that is where the problem lies,” the source who requested anonymity said.

Apparently, Mr Simiyu had favoured procurement of the equipment through a South African company that is the franchise holder of Bosch equipment, which is preferred by the WTO.

The buying and installation would have cost Sh595 million. The board turned down the offer and a direct deal was sourced from the same company that would cost Sh300 million to partly hire and partly purchase the equipment.

However, some of the board members want the equipment hired locally for the conference at Sh200 million, terms which our source say was a direct negotiation.

Mr Magara has, however, maintained that everything is on course and there should be no cause for alarm. The fate of Mr Simiyu, however, remains unclear.

The 10th WTO ministerial meeting in Nairobi is expected to boost Kenya’s image diplomatically and boost confidence in the country’s tourism and hotel industry.

According to Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis findings, each delegate is expected to spend about Sh97,000 per day.

The conference is expected to attract about 7,000 delegates from WTO’s 162 member states.