When the Jubilee Party sought to ensure that Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Dr William Ruto retained the presidency in 2017, it relied on the financial support of several donors.
Through the Friends of Jubilee Foundation, the party was able to raise billions of shillings that went into nationwide campaigns that were instrumental in securing Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto's seats as President and Deputy President respectively.
Ms Mary Wambui, a member of the foundation, played her part by contributing an undisclosed amount. Just four years after the elections, Ms Wambui was wanted by several government agencies for alleged tax evasion and possible money laundering.
There were allegations in political circles that the charges were politically instigated.
The elections came and went, and Dr Ruto was declared the winner. The Supreme Court dismissed several petitions challenging the results and, on September 5, 2022, all seven judges unanimously upheld President Ruto's victory.
The result rewarded loyalists who stuck by President Ruto, and things could not have gone better for Ms Wambui.
In just nine months, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has dropped tax evasion charges, Ms Wambui has been appointed chair of the Communications Authority of Kenya, and her companies are on the verge of raking in billions in government contracts despite the controversy.
On Wednesday, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria presented the Senate with a list of 11 companies that the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) has contracted to import various commodities as part of President Ruto's plans to reduce the cost of food. Mr Kuria told the Senate that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority had given KNTC permission to buy rice, beans, cooking oil and fertiliser directly from companies without going through competitive bidding.
However, Mr Kuria did not reveal the methodology used to narrow down the 11 companies, four of which are owned by a senior civil servant who may have a conflict of interest in doing business with a government agency.
Mr Kuria said 22 companies had been pre-qualified and could be contracted to sell goods to the KNTC. Half of these have already been contracted. Among the documents presented by Mr Kuria was a financial statement showing KNTC's performance over the past five financial years.
Curiously, there are accounting anomalies in the accounts that Mr Kuria did not explain to the Senate, including listing results for the 2022/23 financial year, yet the year has not ended.
In the 2021/2022 financial year, KNTC had a turnover of Sh2.7 billion, up from Sh999 million in the previous period. In the same period, the parastatal had expenses of Sh268.1 million and a net profit of Sh96.3 million. In the 2022/2023 financial year ending June 30, KNTC recorded a turnover of Sh9.132 billion.
Read also: The naked truth about state tenders
This was an increase of Sh6.42 billion or 70.32 per cent over the previous financial year.
Although KNTC's expenses fell to Sh263.4 million, or 1.75 per cent, and the company recorded a massive jump in turnover in the current financial year, the state-owned company's net profit somehow fell. KNTC's profit fell to Sh67 million. This was a 30.3 per cent drop in net profit.
Nation has established that four of the contracted companies are linked to Ms Wambui. Documents that Mr Kuria tabled before the Senate show that the four companies associated with Ms Wambui got contracts to import edible oil, rice and beans in deals that worth over Sh6 billion.
Purma Holdings will also sell 30,000 tonnes of rice and 20,000 tonnes of beans to the KNTC. Mr Kuria did not give values for the cost of the food types that could have helped determine what companies will make from selling them to the KNTC. Business Registration Service (BRS) records show that the company was incorporated on February 13, 1996. Mrs Wambui is the sole shareholder with 1,300 shares.
In the documents presented to the Senate, Mr Kuria did not give specific details of the value of each company's imports.
But documents seen by Nation show that KNTC buys each 20-litre jerrycan of cooking oil for $26 (Sh3,647). The contractors buy each jerrycan at $20 (Sh2,806).
The 12,500 tonnes of cooking oil equates to about 702,000 jerrycans. This means that Ms Wambui's Purma Holdings will sell oil worth $18.2 million (Sh2.5 billion). Of this, $4.2 million (Sh589 million) will be Purma's profit, excluding taxes and expenses such as shipping costs.
In another contract, Charma Holdings Ltd was contracted to import 535,950 jerrycans of cooking oil and 20,000 metric tonnes of red kidney beans.
The company was incorporated on July 31, 2007. Ms Ruth Waithira Kinyanjui, a close associate of Ms Wambui, is listed as the sole shareholder with 3,600 shares.
Ms Kinyanjui is a co-owner, along with Ms Wambui's daughter Evelyn Nyambura Mungai, of another company actively doing business with the government — Nightigale Enterprises. Nightigale Enterprises recently won a multibillion-shilling tender to lay fibre optic cables.
Treasury CS Prof Njuguna Ndung'u allocated Sh1.3 billion for the digital highway project in the 2023/2024 financial year.
Ms Kinyanjui's postal address on the BRS ownership records of Charma Holdings is the same as Ms Wambui's personal postal address on other official government documents.
Charma Holdings will sell cooking oil worth $13.9 million (Sh1.95 billion). The company will earn $3.2 million (Sh451 million) after taxes and expenses.
Mr Kuria also told the Senate that Enterprise Supplies Ltd will sell 6,250 tonnes of cooking oil to KNTC. This is equivalent to about 350,000 20-litre jerrycans.
This means that Enterprise Supplies Ltd will sell oil worth $9.1 million (Sh1.2 billion).
Of this, $2.1 million (Sh294.6 million) will be the company's profit after taxes and expenses. Mrs Wambui is listed as the sole shareholder in Enterprise Supplies with 550 shares. It was incorporated on 13 January 2010.
In another contract, Evertec General Trading Company Ltd will also supply 6,250 tonnes of cooking oil to KNTC. It will also earn $2.1 million (Sh294.6 million) before tax and expenses.
Evertec General Trading Company Ltd was incorporated on 10 April 2008. Mr George Maina Wanjohi is listed as the sole shareholder.
Ms Kinyanjui, the sole shareholder of Charma Holdings, is listed as the contact person for Evertec General Trading Ltd. Her contact details are listed in Evertec's ownership records.
Tax evasion charges
When the DPP's office sought to withdraw tax evasion charges against Ms Wambui, her daughter Purity Njoki and Purma Holdings, Evertec was mentioned in court proceedings.
Ms Wambui's lawyers told the court the chronology of events, which included the freezing of bank accounts belonging to her companies.
The companies she named were Evertec General Trading Company Ltd, Njest Suppliers Ltd and Daydot Ltd.
She claimed that the bank accounts were frozen to ensure that she did not post the Sh50 million cash bail that the courts granted her after she was charged.
Interestingly, Evertec General Trading Company Ltd was among several companies listed as beneficiaries of a massive procurement mess at the National Youth Service in 2018.
Investigators at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) found that the company received Sh67.8 million, and was among several firms investigated for procurement irregularities that led to the loss of billions in the scandal dubbed NYS II.
However, Evertec Trading Company Ltd has not been charged or implicated in any wrongdoing in court documents.
Other local companies that have won contracts with KNTC include Makram Imports and Exports Ltd, Standard Petroleum and First Quality Supplies. Makram is to sell 25,000 tonnes of rice to KNTC.
The company was established on April 27, 2021. Mr Abdirahman Muhumed Kainan is listed as the sole shareholder with 100 shares. The company was just over a year old when it was approached by KNTC for the rice contract. First Quality Supplies has been awarded a contract to sell 25,000 tonnes of CAN fertiliser. The company is owned by Mirram Chepkosgei Saina, who holds 90 shares.
Ownership records show that First Quality Supplies borrowed $12,250,000 (Sh1.71 billion) and Sh2.1 billion from an undisclosed bank in April 2023.
The timing of the loan suggests that the company may have borrowed the funds to finance its contract with KNTC, with the amounts giving an indication of the colossal value of its fertiliser supply deal.
Standard Petroleum Ltd is listed as unaudited in the BRS. This means that the company has not complied with the requirement for all companies to declare their shareholding and directorship details to the Companies Registry. As a result, its ownership records are not available.
In his responses to the Senate, Mr Kuria provided a document indicating that the company is listed as unverified, which means that the KNTC and the Ministry may also not know who owns the company. Standard Petroleum has a contract to sell 12,500 tonnes of urea to the KNTC.
The state-owned company has also contracted four UAE-based companies to sell it fertiliser, edible oil and rice.
Lamar Commodity Trading DMCC, Multi Commerce FZC, Lone Trading FZE and Invest Africa FZCO. Lamar Commodity Trading has a local subsidiary of the same name, which was registered on 20 July 2018.
Three Kenyans — Abdi Mohamed Abdi (600 shares), Kenneth Dedan Kimathi (200 shares) and Antony Kimeu Muindi (200 shares) - are listed as shareholders of Lamar Commodity Trading (Kenya) Ltd. Lamar will sell 30,000 tonnes of NPK fertiliser to KNTC.
Invest Africa also deals with KNTC through a local subsidiary, Shehena Commodity Ltd. The local subsidiary is wholly owned by Invest Africa. Shehena will sell 353,540 jerrycans of cooking oil worth $9.1 million (Sh1.2 billion) to KNTC. Of this, the company will earn $2.1 million (Sh294.6 million) before tax and expenses.
Multi Commerce FZC will sell 2.276 million jerrycans of cooking oil worth $59.17 million (Sh8.3 billion) and 10,000 tonnes of rice to KNTC. The company is registered in Dubai but does not have a local office.
Lone Trading FZE will sell 1.592 million cans of cooking oil worth $50.7 million (Sh7.1 billion) and 52,500 tonnes of rice to KNTC.