Attorney General Githu Muigai has warded off criticism that he failed to advise the government on the legality of the Sh15-billion surveillance tender that President Uhuru Kenyatta has touted as the magic bullet in the fight against runaway insecurity.
The AG said his job as the chief legal advisor of the government is to respond to grey areas in law that are presented to his office, and not to respond to issues that he might not be aware of.
“The Attorney General is not an ombudsman. He doesn’t walk from office to office asking people ‘what are you doing so that I advise you’. The Attorney General advises upon request,” Prof Muigai said Friday.
Speaking to Standard Group’s Radio Maisha on the sidelines of a training session for State Law Office staff in Karen, Nairobi, the AG insisted that it will be “unfair” to crucify his office for mistakes in the procurement of the multibillion tender that was awarded to Safaricom.
“It is very unfair for you to say, ‘why didn’t you advise the government it won’t rain there?’. The AG is not an ombudsman. You advise based on the questions that are raised,” said Prof Muigai.
His stand came just a day after the House Committee on Administration and National Security said it has to speak to him to understand why the Head of State had flouted the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. The committee said it had suspended the project until all the queries were answered, and the issue approved by the National Assembly.
The AG is scheduled to appear before the MPs next week to shed light if the “restricted tendering” through which Safaricom was awarded the tender was legally done.
The committee, through the chairperson Asman Kamama (Tiaty), said they had prima facie evidence that there were shortcuts taken to make sure that Safaricom got the contract to install and supply surveillance and police communication equipment in Nairobi and Mombasa.
The legal questions that MPs want answered is why the procurement was not advertised, yet the Constitution and the Public Procurement and Disposal Act requires an open, transparent and competitive process.
There are only three conditions where “restricted tendering” is validated: when the nature of goods are so special that only a select group of prequalified suppliers can deliver; when the time and cost of procurement is disproportionate to the value of goods to be supplied; and when it is very clear that only very few suppliers are competent to deliver the goods and services.
According to MPs, none of these conditions obtained, and therefore, they said, the project will have to be suspended.
Friday, Safaricom’s Chief Executive Bob Collymore said he will honour the date with MPs to explain the project, and respond to all their queries.
“In the interests of transparency, Safaricom Limited welcomes the move by the Parliamentary Committee on Security and Administration to scrutinize the deal and we would therefore like to assure Parliament of our full cooperation during life of the probe,” noted Safaricom in a statement to newsrooms.
Safaricom clarified that it will have an independent channel dedicated to the security system.
“The cutting edge system will run on an independent LTE (Long Term Evolution) security communications network using designated International Telecommunications Union standards. It will therefore not run on Safaricom’s commercial network,” Safaricom added in the dispatch via their Public Relations Agency.
Safaricom said the security network will be managed by the police service.
The tender was awarded last month, but it has so far not been signed.