What you need to know:
- Part of the problem is that the unit has been hiding behind national security to buy aircraft and parts that have not been cleared by Parliament.
- Cases have been reported of other aviation firms that have used police fuel, but instead of replacing the fuel, they make the cash refunds, which are rarely accounted for.
After years of operating a unit that had turned into a bottomless pit in which taxpayers’ money was spent buying aircraft that fell out of the sky or got grounded just months after being bought, the chickens are finally coming home to roost for the commanders of the Police Air Wing.
There is disquiet at the unit based at Wilson Airport as restructuring and investigations looms. The impending moves will see some top commanders taken to court to answer corruption and mismanagement charges, or have their contracts terminated.
Police Inspector-General Henry Mutyambai had made it his first order of business to fix the air wing, which had only two operational helicopters despite having gobbled up hundreds of millions of shillings each year.
Part of the problem is that the unit has been hiding behind national security to buy aircraft and parts that have not been cleared by Parliament.
This provided space for some of its managers to siphon public funds, which in turn compromised the police force.
In March, the Nation ran an exposé detailing how the unit spent Sh4.6 billion on three choppers — two AW139s and one A12, which had never been flown due to lack of insurance.
“The fact is that due to bureaucracy, things can delay, which makes it seem like someone is becoming fishy. Give me a month and you’ll see a lot of change. I should have six helicopters operational,” Mr Mutyambai had told the Nation at that time.
Mr Mutyambai seems to have kept his word. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Upper Hill-based Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the police have already started investigations.
The IAU has already forwarded a preliminary report to the IG, which has recommended a change in the structure at the Police Air Wing, which could see some commanders moved or their positions declared redundant.
Insiders claim that among those under investigation is long-serving commander Rodgers Mbithi.
His term expires next year, but there is a push to have him removed from the helm of the unit he has headed since 2009.
Among the issues being investigated is a weekly allocation of Sh1.2 million to the unit for operations in Boni Forest, months after the aircraft that were being used were grounded. The money was allegedly used for fuel and supplies.
Fuel theft is also being investigated. The air wing keeps fuel for emergencies in Marsabit, Isiolo, Lodwar and Nakuru, among other regions.
Cases have been reported of other aviation firms that have used police fuel, but instead of replacing the fuel, they make the cash refunds, which are rarely accounted for.
A payment of Sh21.4 million to Ventura Aviation and West Rift Aviation Ltd for training of pilots is also being investigated.
Fears have also been raised that at least four pilots are flying the Mi-17 choppers without proper licences.