Detectives are investigating a Sh6 billion NYS-like scandal at the Prisons department, the Nation has learnt.
A senior detective revealed on Wednesday that the investigators from DCI and the anti-graft commission had closed in on suspects behind the suspicious spending.
“Detectives are investigating the Sh6.2 billion pending bills from the last financial year, and Sh2 billion for prisoners’ food, which was cleared last year although it’s still marked as a pending bill,” said the investigator who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The source said arrests will be made soon once the detectives complete the investigations, which are narrowing down on senior officers in the department.
When reached for a comment, Prisons Commissioner General Isaiah Osugo said: “I hear the matter is with investigative agencies, who are going through the pending bills. It is a long standing issue on prisoners’ food. We will wait for them to complete the investigations so that the truth can be known.”
He, however, did not divulge much information about the matter.
However, the Nation has learnt that senior officers in the department, who flouted the public procurement law, could face prosecution over past and present contracts and tenders that investigators say were awarded irregularly.
The irregularities were identified by Correctional Services Permanent Secretary Zeinab Hussein, who took office barely four months ago.
Ms Hussein was transferred to the correctional department in July when President Uhuru Kenyatta reshuffled the Cabinet.
Sources privy to the investigations say the Sh6 billion scandal involves breach in advertisement, evaluation and award of tenders.
“People are going to answer tough questions on missing monies. The shady deals involve violation of Section 45( 3 ) of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, 2015,”said the source who sought anonymity.
The department is said to have also bought food without valid contracts in the 2017/2018 financial year.
The investigators are also combing through suspicious vouchers amounting to more than Sh800 million paid in the previous financial year by the department.
They are also investigating how proceeds from the Directorate of Prisons Enterprise have been spent in the department.
Investigators also seek to understand how products supplied by prison farms were transported within facilities using prison vehicles and billed as tenders from fictitious suppliers.
The suppliers are said to have been paid up front.
Already, the department has suspended payments of the pending bills.
The investigations come at a time when Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i has highlighted government’s plans to improve prison services and the entire correctional system.
Last month, Dr Matiang'i said it is part of the government's role to modernise prisons, emphasising that the move is part of the new police reforms aimed at ensuring a collaborative and inclusive security sector.
The CS also said there are plans to decongest prisons in the near future.
As at last year, the Nakuru Main GK Prison alone owed suppliers more than Sh100 million for foodstuff and other items supplied in two years. The prison authorities said the government had not released money to pay suppliers.
Several other correctional facilities across the country have had to grapple with limited supplies due to a stalemate in clearance of debts.
In the 2015/2016 budget, the government allocated the Kenya Prison Services Sh16.2 billion.
The money was meant to help the Prisons Service offset pending bills, construct houses for staff, improve staff remuneration, implement reforms in the service and decongest prisons.