A parliamentary committee is investigating how senior officers at the Department of Defence are abusing restricted tendering process to fleece the government billions of shillings in supply of meat and other foodstuffs to military barracks.
The probe by the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) comes on the heels of government's fight against corruption within the public service.
The committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, is investigating among others, how the DoD officials use market survey as a benchmark to knockout the lowest bidders under the pretext that their bids are too low, while at the same time occasioning the government to spend huge amounts for the goods that would have otherwise gone for cheap.
In the process, the senior government officials collude with the officials of the firms awarded the tenders to hike the prices midstream, occasioning extra expenditure outside the budget.
The watchdog committee has already summoned Defence Principal Secretary Torome Saitoti to appear before it tomorrow (Thursday) with Mr Wandayi saying that the investigations will get to the bottom of the scandal.
“We will get to the bottom of this matter and no one will be spared especially those found culpable,” Mr Wandayi said even as it was revealed that entities that fail to play along are blacklisted same as those that challenge the DoD decisions in court.
Interestingly, in restricted tendering, bidders will not get to know the prices quoted by the other bidders unlike in the open tendering.
This means that if the highest bidder was awarded, they may not also know therefore ruling out any instance of appealing to the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB).
As the DoD uses the restricted method, Mr Wandayi said that the Public Finance Management Act provides for special conditions for this mode of tendering as well as direct procurement and that foodstuff is not among them.
It is also important to note that meat supplied to the military is in two categories, standard beef and high grade beef, which is first quality from what is supplied to the ordinary Kenyans.
The few tenders awarded through the open process have been nullified by the Public Procurement and Administrative Review Board (PPARB) and the courts on grounds of violation of the procurement law.
At least two cases are pending in court while others are currently before the PAC.
For instance, the case before the watchdog committee has put Mr Saitoti on the spot for abusing the law in awarding the supply of fresh meat to Nanyuki air base.
Mr Fazal Butt, the director of Jack Right (1982) limited filed the complaint with PAC claiming that he was locked out of the 2015 tender despite quoting a price lower than the entity that won the award for the supply of 20,100 kilogrammes of meet at the base.
Mr Butt said that Quality Meat Packers was instead awarded the tender to supply the meat for two years at a cost of Sh328 per kilo compared to the Sh290 per kg that he had quoted.
But he went to review board which ruled that the tender be given to the lowest bidder - Habibani, which had quoted Sh260 per kilogramme.
However, Habibani would increase the price from Sh260 to Sh290 and finally 320 per kilogramme within the contract period, which is against the procurement law.
In 2016, the DoD officials did restrictive tendering that saw Mount Kenya Abattoir, from Nyeri, awarded at Sh360 per kilogramme and the deal is expected to run until the end of 2018.
In Eldoret, Salgaa butchery limited has lodged a case in court challenging the award of the tender to Eldoret Standard Butchery limited for the supply of meet to the military at Moi Barracks.
Salgaa had quoted Sh280 per kilo but Eldoret Standard butchery would get the award at Sh320 per kilo for the supply in 2015.
The Eldoret standard butchery would again get the tender for the 2016-17 before it was awarded to avenue butchery for the year 2017-18.
When it expired in June 2018, the supplier was surprised that his company had not been considered during the restricted tendering that saw M/S Peena Investment Company limited offered at Sh355 per kilo for two years.
Avenue would later seek court orders compelling the procuring entity to re-advertises and have it included in the fresh process.