A special team of detectives will on Monday move into the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology to investigate complaints of corruption and failure to honour advertising contracts.
Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti told the Nation by phone that the team was put together on Friday, but will formally begin work tomorrow.
The DCI launched investigations after outraged media managers appealed to the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji over a debt of more than Sh2.5 billion, which the Government Advertising Agency (GAA), under the ICT ministry, has accumulated over the years.
GAA places advertisements on behalf of government departments and agencies, collects payments, and is supposed to pay media firms but has not been remitting the funds.
Media owners fear the funds are either not being collected, or have been collected and diverted to other uses or stolen.
As a result, Kenya’s once vibrant media industry is now severely damaged financially. To make matters worse, media firms are being forced to pay VAT for the outstanding amounts.
When it was setup in 2012, GAA was supposed to help the government cut advertising expenses.
However, big parastatals are privately complaining that their advertising costs have gone up tremendously and are not getting the kind of response they ordinarily do when they advertise directly.
This is because GAA advertisements are not targeted: all are lumped together in MyGov and inserted into newspapers, irrespective of reach and audience composition.
Inside the ICT ministry, staff are passing the buck. One senior official accused Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru of putting the ministry in a ditch.
“He has been saying he will get the money from Treasury,” the official said.
On MyGov alone, GAA is incurring debt at the rate of Sh40 million a week (Sh2.08 billion a year).
In the current Budget, the ministry only has access to Sh390 million for paying media houses, the official said.
He said GAA does not have any capacity to collect debt from state departments, especially parastatals.
With media houses now starting to withdraw credit facilities, the government is at risk of being unable to meet statutory and other communication obligations.