Kenya Wildlife Service rangers

Kenya Wildlife Service rangers outside the agency’s headquarters in Lang’ata, Nairobi, in 2018. 

| File | Nation Media Group

How taxpayers paid double in KWS tenders

What you need to know:

  • KWS bought 3,630 cans of corned beef and condemned taxpayers to paying Sh4.3 million – double the retail price.
  • The KWS also paid Sh70 for each 200-gramme packet of salt.
  • Three local supermarkets visited by the Nation sell the same pack at Sh9.

 The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) could be burning a hole in taxpayers' pockets through purchase of commodities at inflated prices, documents seen by the Nation indicate.

Financial records show that the State agency tasked with protection of Kenya's diverse wildlife ecosystem paid suppliers whose prices were inflated, in at least two tenders, indicating possible governance weaknesses in KWS procurement processes.

Procurement of some goods has sparked internal conflicts that have now shone a spotlight on the agency’s top boss, Erastus Kanga, who signed off on payment of a firm that supplied the KWS with food and other consumer goods.

Contracts awarded to two companies, Msafiri Feeds and Norift, show how taxpayers may be losing millions in dubious procurement systems at the KWS.

When planning for the 2022-2023 supplementary budget, the KWS stated it would spend Sh6.5 million on replenishing its stores with food and consumer goods that were exhausted midway through the financial year.

But when it was time to go through with the replenishing of KWS stores, the budget had been increased to Sh16.5 million.

Internal documents show that Msafiri Feeds inflated the prices of most goods. The biggest cash cow was corned beef, and KWS paid Sh1,210 for each 350-gramme can.

A spot check at three local supermarkets indicate that a 350-gramme can of corned beef retails at Sh625.

KWS bought 3,630 cans of corned beef and condemned taxpayers to paying Sh4.3 million – double the retail price.

Companies supplying such goods usually buy them at wholesale prices, which means Msafiri Feeds may have acquired the products at prices lower than the retail prices in supermarkets.

At a time that a standard roll of tissue paper was selling at Sh60 in local supermarkets, the KWS paid Sh150 – three times the retail cost – for each piece.

The KWS also paid Sh70 for each 200-gramme packet of salt. Three local supermarkets visited by the Nation sell the same pack at Sh9.

The KWS did not respond to our requests for comment on the inflated costs. But in an email, Dr Kanga’s office stated that his administration has done nothing wrong and is being fought by “corrupt individuals”.

To Msafiri Feeds owner Yahya Ibrahim Khalif, there was no issue with the price of goods supplied, as he insists that it was KWS that came up with the pricing.

Mr Khalif further justified himself by saying he is a taxpayer who paid Caesar’s dues after the KWS deal. The businessman argued that the difference between the retail prices and what his firm was paid is negligible, hence there was no irregularity in the supplies deal.

“What do you want me to do? A difference of Sh100 only? Didn’t I pay tax? What more do you want. Those prices were set by KWS, so what do you want me to do? Sometimes use your head before you call someone and ask such questions,” an enraged Mr Khalif said when we asked him why the cost of supplies was higher than the prevailing retail prices.

In contracting Msafiri Feeds, the KWS deviated from its usual procedures. Insiders told the Nation that contracts awarded to consumer goods suppliers are usually to run for a financial year.

If in the course of the financial year there is a need to replenish its stores, the KWS simply asks one of the contracted firms to supply more goods.

But in this case, a new firm was brought mid-way through the financial year in a move that may have hurt taxpayers.

Msafiri Feeds was incorporated on July 24, 2019 as per Business Registration Service records. Mr Khalif is the sole owner, holding all 1,000 shares in the company. The firm is based at Airport View Plaza along Outering road in Nairobi County, the records further indicate.

Internal documents seen by the Nation also show that paperwork to approve Msafiri Feeds payments may have been hurriedly done, with some inconsistencies appearing on some documents.

In the Local Purchase Order raised, Dr Kanga indicates two dates – February 25, 2023 and February 27, 2023.

At the top of the document, it is indicated that the LPO was raised on February 27, 2023. At the bottom, Dr Kanga indicates that he signed, and approved, the document on February 25, 2023.

This means that he approved the order two days before it was made.

The invoice raised by Msafiri Feeds is dated February 27, 2023.

Msafiri Feeds Ltd, the company awarded the supply contract, has been linked to at least two procurement scandals at City Hall. The firm is owned by Yunus Ibrahim Khalif.

Msafiri Feeds was in 2020 flagged by the Financial Reporting Centre, a government intelligence agency, after receiving Sh8 million from Nairobi County as payment for a garbage collection contract.

Another firm linked to Mr Khalif, Flexilease Ltd, received Sh1 billion for garbage collection. In cash withdrawal forms, Flexilease and Msafiri Feeds claimed that they were using millions to pay street children employed to clean up Nairobi County.

Flexilease and Msafiri Feeds are also part of an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigation into Nairobi County for fraudulent payments for supply of various goods. In that series of contracts, Msafiri Feeds was paid Sh39 million but allegedly did not supply the goods.

In another contract for the supply of firefighting equipment, the cost of digging hoes was inflated by over 700 per cent.

When floating a tender for the equipment, the KWS indicated that the digging hoes should be made from carbon fibre.

A carbon fibre digging hoe retails at between Sh1,000 and Sh2,000.

Norift, the firm that was awarded the tender, supplied wooden digging hoes. The firm supplied each item at Sh14,000.

When protesting her deployment from KWS to the Ministry of Tourism, Deputy Director Nancy Kabete claimed that she declined to approve payment for the digging hoes and that her stand sparked a vicious dispute with Dr Kanga.

Ms Kabete wrote a protest letter to the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Dr Kanga allegedly told Ms Kabete that he was also under pressure to make the payment to Norift, an indication that there could have been powerful individuals meddling in the KWS procurement processes.

At the time, Ms Kabete was Acting Director in charge of the Wildlife Security Directorate. Following her deployment to the State Department of Wildlife under the Ministry, Ms Kabete was demoted to Deputy Director.

The digging hoes had somehow been issued with a positive inspection certificate despite being of different specifications from what was stated in the tender documents inviting bidders.

“…I recommended for re-inspection of the equipment before I approved payment. However, the Acting Director-General insisted I approve the tender payment because he was under pressure to make payment,” Ms Kabete said in her letter to the PSC.

She has since been redeployed to the KWS, but demoted to Deputy Director in charge of business and strategy under the KWS Partnership and Enterprise Directorate.