By NATION TEAM firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Wednesday, May 22 2013 at 23:30
The Daily Nation today publishes a copy of a US$300,000 (Sh25.14 million) invoice for the leasing of a luxury jet which was submitted by Swiss firm VistaJet to Deputy President William Ruto’s office.
The invoice, dated May 15, 2013, contradicts claims by Mr Ruto’s office that the cost of hiring the jet was $221,000 (Sh18.5 million) rather than the amount quoted in the Sunday Nation story.
The document, which now forms the basis of the first investigation launched by the Public Accounts Committee, was obtained from impeccable sources and indicates that Kenyans may pay more than the reported Sh25.14 million.
The invoice from VistaJet offices in Salzburg, Austria, indicates that the payment is a “first instalment of the quarterly payment” for the jet leasing services as part of a “VistaJet Program Partnership Agreement” with the government.
The Deputy President’s office has launched a furious rear-guard action to contain the damage following the publication of the details of the deal which has triggered anger from civil society and the public. Mr Ruto has also threatened to sue the Nation over the story.
In Parliament on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Aden Duale tabled a letter from a firm known as E-ADC Limited stating that the “official invoice” sent to the Office of the Deputy President was for $221,000.
However, the letter was written one day after the first Nation report and distributed to newsrooms by a Mr Ahmed Kassam, an aviation expert. The letter does not bear an attachment showing the “official invoice” from VistaJet.
The bill obtained by the Nation was addressed to Mr Evans Nyachio, a senior procurement officer in the Deputy President’s office.
Although Parliament was told the Nation did not contact the Deputy President’s office before publication of the story, that statement is untrue.
Mr Nyachio was called on Saturday and challenged to confirm or deny that the invoice had been received.
He did neither and instead said the matter was “sensitive” and demanded that reporters see him on Monday, May 20.
Various government officials have also made false statements while seeking to justify the expense footed by taxpayers for the four-nation trip to Gabon, Nigeria, Ghana and Congo.
In an interview with NTV, Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo claimed that flying by commercial flights would have required the group to fly to France and connect back to West and Central Africa.
In fact, Kenya Airways operates direct flights to Lagos, Accra and to the capital of Congo, Brazzaville. There are no direct flights to Libreville but connections exist in West Africa.
Dr Ndemo also said that hiring a jet was the most cost-effective way the trip could have been made: “If you carry nine senior government officials on business class going to Europe and coming back you will find that the cost would have been much higher,” he said.
In fact, information available on the Internet indicates that first class fare from Nairobi to Lagos is $3,345 (Sh280,980).
Assuming that all 16 passengers on Mr Ruto’s trip had travelled first class — an unlikely event considering not all on board were senior officials — the trip to Lagos would have cost $53,520 (Sh4.5 million excluding connection flight charges).
Dr Ndemo also told his interviewer there was “no contract” between VistaJet and the government and that the deal was “a one-off”.
That statement is contradicted by documents obtained by the Nation which indicate that the money was a “first instalment” of a “quarterly payment”, the basis for the Sh100 million figure assuming that the Sh25 million fee was to be paid every three months.
Sources within the Public Accounts Committee indicated that the investigation would focus on three aspects.
They will be investigating the procurement process leading up to the award of the contract to VistaJet and whether procedures were flouted in offering the deal.
They will also interrogate whether all those who travelled have been employed by the government and have obtained a PIN number which allows them to travel at taxpayer’s expense.
A third strand, the source said, would look at the question of hiring procedures at the office of the Deputy President amid murmurs about the process of recruitment under way since the Jubilee government came to office.