DIRECTORS TO BE GRILLED

EACC has 30 days to probe planned Telkom-Airtel merger

State officers involved in the questionable deal will be treated as either witnesses or suspects

In Summary

• MPs protested anti-graft agency's delay to swing into action, insinuating it could be protecting powerful Treasury individuals 

• EACC directed to submit legal opinion from its lawyers in seven days 

A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.
A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.
Image: FILE

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is probing the planned merger of Telkom Kenya and Airtel Networks Kenya Limited.

EACC’s director of investigations Abdi Mohamud on Tuesday said the commission has assembled lawyers to advise on whether to stop the plans until investigations are concluded. 

Mohamud told the National Assembly’s Implementation committee that all government officers involved in the questionable deal will be treated as either witnesses or suspects. 

“After this meeting, we are going to engage our legal team to guide us on how we can deal with this matter without raising any legal challenges,” Mohamud said.

The director’s assurances followed a protest by the MPs over delays of the commission to swing into action, insinuating it could have been protecting some powerful individuals at the National Treasury who okayed the transaction.

The committee chaired by Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta gave the agency 30 days to investigate the now controversial matter and submit a preliminary report to the panel.

It also directed the commission to submit legal opinion from its lawyers in seven days if it was possible, to stop any further transaction on the planned merger.

Communication Authority director-general Francis Wangusi announced the government’s plan to have the two firms merged.

Mohamud said they are going to demand all documents in the transaction as well as grill directors of international companies involved in the acquisition.

“Will have that decision if we should stop any further transactions by Monday and then next week, we will be collecting information from the directors of the firms,” he added. 

The restructuring of the company with 40 per cent government stake started in December 2007 when France Telecom (now Orange S.A.) bought 51 per cent stake in Telkom Kenya at Sh26 billion.

But National Assembly’s Public Investment Committee in 2014 dismissed the deal as fraudulent after it emerged that the government only got Sh2.5 billion instead of Sh4.9 billion.

The special audit by PIC on the privatisation, recapitalisation and restructuring Telkom Kenya’s balance sheet which was adopted by Parliament in 2015 warned that the government was not getting value for money.

The report had accused Treasury of not carrying out due diligence in identifying a French multinational.

Kenta claimed there were reports that the commission was protecting some powerful individuals.

“There are reports that you fear to handle certain cases involving powerful people or you are just out to cover up for some people. If you cannot handle this case then this committee will cite you on the floor of the House as the stumbling block in this investigations,” Kenta said. 

Edited by R.Wamochie