Communications Authority accuses disbanded board of soliciting bribes from Airtel

Communications Authority (CA) Director General Francis Wangusi (right), the authority Board Chairman Ngene Gituku (left) and Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC) chairperson Dr Catherine Ngahu at the Laico Hotel, Nairobi on April 18, 2016. Mr Wangusi said members of the disbanded CA board used their positions to solicit bribes and falsify mileage allowance claims. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Members of the disbanded Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) board used their positions to solicit bribes and falsify mileage allowance claims, director-general of the regulator Francis Wangusi has said.
  • Mr Wangusi’s allegations are echoed by Mr Ngene Gituku, the authority’s chairman, who on Friday at a press briefing said the regulator has evidence to support the claim that a board member went to Airtel seeking bribes to quash demands for a controversial Sh2.1 billion licence fee.
  • The pair turned the heat on the disbanded board, whose one director has several times claimed that the board was being fought over its push for Airtel to pay the Sh2.1 billion for a 10-year frequency spectrum permit following the expiry in February 2015 of the one it was awarded in 2000.

Members of the disbanded Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) board used their positions to solicit bribes and falsify mileage allowance claims, director-general of the regulator Francis Wangusi has said.

Mr Wangusi’s allegations are echoed by Mr Ngene Gituku, the authority’s chairman, who on Friday at a press briefing said the regulator has evidence to support the claim that a board member went to Airtel seeking bribes to quash demands for a controversial Sh2.1 billion licence fee.

The pair turned the heat on the disbanded board, whose one director has several times claimed that the board was being fought over its push for Airtel to pay the Sh2.1 billion for a 10-year frequency spectrum permit following the expiry in February 2015 of the one it was awarded in 2000.

Airtel paid a $55 million (Sh4.7 billion) fee for its initial 15-year licence.

Airtel has since moved to court to challenge the decision to have it pay the amount, arguing that the Communications Authority of Kenya had initially agreed - while approving the joint buyout of Essar’s yuMobile by Safaricom and Airtel - that it would waive the licence renewal fee and instead reconcile the yuMobile licence with that of Airtel.

FINANCIAL LOSSES

Mr Wangusi on Wednesday said if Airtel wins the case it has filed against the authority, it will expose the regulator to financial losses in terms of legal fees.

“CA received a letter addressed to the director-general complaining that one of the CA board directors had solicited bribes from the mobile network operator in exchange of facilitating a review of licence fees payable to the authority,” said Mr Gituku.

“That letter is in our records and the matter is under investigation. We deeply regret that the ex-board member is now blaming corruption at CA in respect to Airtel’s licence fee for his woes with the authorities,” he added.

Mr Wangusi claimed that this is the first time in the history of the regulatory body that corruption allegations among the board members are being raised, adding that some members of the disbanded board had been demanding that they be awarded tenders while some had been found to be falsifying mileage claims.

“There is evidence that they (board members) were asking Airtel to pay the licence fee because they did not receive the bribe they were demanding from Airtel,” said Mr Wangusi.

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