Jacob Kaimenyi now defends team of experts who awarded cancelled laptops tender

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi during a press conference at his office on March 13, 2014. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI

What you need to know:

  • Kaimenyi promised an internal audit of the entire process promising to act if any culpability is detected on the officials involved
  • Two key conditions were that all bidders should be original manufacturers of laptops and that their annual financial turnover should be an equivalent of Sh8 billion

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi on Thursday pledged an audit of the award of the cancelled schools laptops tender while defending the process at the same time.

It also emerged that at least six committees of experts from the public and private sectors worked on the multi-billion shilling tender.

Prof Kaimenyi and PS Belio Kispsang are under pressure to explain how the procurement was bungled leading to the cancellation by a review board.

Though Prof Kaimenyi and Dr Kipsang do not sit in the tender committee, they are expected to be regularly briefed on its work.

All Class One pupils in public schools were to be given the laptops this term. The project was the flagship election pledge of the Jubilee administration.

On Thursday, Prof Kaimenyi did not directly address the questions raised by the review board.

“To the best of my knowledge, honesty, accountability and sense of heavy responsibility we owe Kenyans, have guided our every step in this process,” he said.

However, he promised an internal audit of the entire process promising to act if any culpability is detected on the officials involved.

One of the questions is why the Indian firm, Olive Telecommunications which won the tender was cleared at the preliminary stage despite the fact that it did not meet the conditions.

Two key conditions were that all bidders should be original manufacturers of laptops and that their annual financial turnover should be an equivalent of Sh8 billion.

“The interested party (Olive Telecommunications PVT) did not meet the mandatory financial qualifications and should not have been allowed to proceed to the technical evaluation stage,” the Review Board said in the ruling cancelling the tender.

At the technical evaluation stage, the shortlisted firms were to supply a sample of their complete manufactured laptop which was to be tested and evaluated as per the specifications on the tender document.

Olive should have been disqualified on this ground also but this did not happen.

“The winning bidder was required to have an annual turnover of about Sh8 billion but the board discovered that the annual turnover as per the audited books of account showed that the interested party  (Olive) only had Sh1.1 billion which did not meet the financial condition set by the  procuring enitity,” the board said.

The technical team that looked at this aspect was chaired by Mr Francis Mwarucha, an IT expert at the Teachers Service Commission.

DUE DILIGENCE

The same process was later subjected to verification by the due diligence team led by Prof Elijah Omwenga, a member of the ICT Authority Board. (EDITORIAL: Laptops fiasco: Who takes responsibility?)

It could have detected the irregularities in the earlier process but Olive still went through.

Mr Isaiya Nyaribo, a senior deputy secretary in the ministry of education chaired a 10-member ministerial tender committee that was in charge of the entire procurement process.

Prof Omwenga was at the head of an eight-member government team that visited China and India to confirm the evaluation status of Olive Communications.

His colleague, Dr Victor Kyalo also from the ICTA was picked by the PS to chair the competitive negotiations committee that met the three top companies to further negotiate their prices downwards through a process known as Best And Final Offer.

There was also the evaluation committee that was responsible for Financial Evaluation of the shortlisted companies. It was chaired by Mr Mwarucha of TSC.

Despite a damning ruling by the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board that pinpointed a flawed process in nearly all stages of the tender, Prof Kaimenyi came out in defence of his ministry insisting that procurement was conducted above board.

He said that though the ruling may have been out of misinterpretation of certain technical aspects of the process the ministry was not interested in challenging it.

“We may not agree with that ruling but we respect it anyway ... I assure the public that we shall work within 45 days indicated in the ruling of the Review Board to expedite the process from the stage it has stipulated we proceed,” the minister stated.

One major aspect of the ruling rendered on Tuesday is a claim that the ministry manipulated prices at the negotiations stage allowing an increment of Sh 1.4 billion above the price initially quoted by the lowest bidder. But on Thursday, Prof Kaimenyi maintained that the assertion was misleading.

In view of the ruling, the whole nation is now baffled about why the technocrats that worked on the tender got it all wrong.

The tender committee chaired by Mr Nyaribo took part in preliminary evaluation that knocked out unqualified firms from the list of 16 companies that placed their bids before qualifying the three shortlisted firms to the technical evaluation stage.

Other members of Prof Omwenga’s team who were in India to conduct due diligence were Mr John Tember, an ICT education expert, Edith Torome, a legal expert, Emmy Gachoka, a content expert, Purity Gacheru, a financial expert, Kenneth Mwangi, a procurement expert and Mr Mwarucha.

In China, they visited offices of the New Century Oprtonics which was allegedly in a consortium with Olive before flying to India to conduct an assessment of the Indian firm’s offices.

But the board ruled that there was no evidence to corroborate claims that the Indian firm had a relationship with the Chinese partner in the tender deal.

But the in the due diligence report the experts said: “The team was presented with copies of various contracts/agreements between Olive and Telecommunications PVT and other companies including the following; New Century Oprtonics, Elite Group Computer Systems, Uzbek Telecom and Telcom Kenya,” the report stated. (READ: House team wants Kaimenyi to resign)

NON-EXISTENT PACT

Further the confidential report seen by the Nation says: “For the purposes of this bid Olive Telecommunications Pvt Limited entered into an MoU with New Century Optronics on November 1-2013.”

The Nation further established that the strength relied on by the ministry to award the tender to Olive was a discovery by the diligence team that a Chinese device manufacturer, Elite Group Computers that had been contracted by the Indians also manufactured for giants like HP and Del.

Said the report: “Their major products include PCs, motherboards, graphic cards, Notebooks, tablets laptops among others. Their customers include Dell, HP, Olive, Mecer,Haier, Lennovo /IBM, Acer, Siemens among others.”

Though the due diligence report appears to confirm the existence of evidence that Olive and Elite Group Computers had a deal, the ruling by the review board declared it did not exist.

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