Kenyans may never know what caused the police helicopter crash after the probe was internally frustrated despite investigators being gazetted to commence the inquiry, we can authoritatively reveal.
The Augusta Westland AW-139, registration number 5Y-NPS, was registered on April 26, 2016 and crashed on September 8 the same year only four months later.
The new revelations come to the fore as the mystery surrounding the procurement, purchase and circumstances that led to the crash deepens.
In the latest audit report, Auditor General’s office has revealed a total of Sh2.27billion has been paid for the chopper but the government has only availed payment voucher of Sh683million.
It has also emerged the gazetted investigation team was not allocated any budget by the ministry that effectively crippled logistics activities and allowances expenses.
“There is no accident report as required under Regulation 148 of the Public Finance Management (National Government) Regulations 2015. In the absence of accident report, it is not possible to categorise the loss of the helicopter in terms of natural cause, technical or pilot’s error, the basis upon which the loss could be recovered,” the Auditor General Edward Ouko said.
Ouko adds that no explanation has been given for failure to release the accident report by the Cabinet Secretary in accordance with regulation 18(1) of Civil Aviation (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation) regulation 2013.
In a letter dated May 10, 2017 reference NPS/IG/SEC/1/3/1/6 VOL.1, the Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said that the helicopter did not have a warranty as a unit but parts such as avionics had.
Further, failure to avail the required warranties for avionics has made it Impossible to determine whether the helicopter new or refurbished. Avionics are electronic equipment fitted in an aircraft.
Ouko also said tendering and contract documents were not availed for audit review, as the Interior Ministry said the purchase of the helicopter was classified.
So far, the Ministry of Interior has not given the details of the avionics parts purportedly under warranty or given reasons for failure by the manufacturer to compensate lost parts under warranty.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, through Gazette Notice No.8597 dated October 13, 2016 appointed a team of six people to investigate the circumstances that could have led into the accident.
The team included Captain Martyne Lunani, the lead investigator, Dr John Patrick Ochieng, Lt. Col Patrick Mutai, retired Captain Wilfred Ngumo, Humphrey Bulimu and Kennedy Ogeto.
However, almost two years after the helicopter was bought and crashed, it is also not clear whether the helicopter was new or refurbished despite a massive expenditure of Sh2.27billion from public coffers.
According to insiders, some senior government officials did not want the investigations to continue, as the findings would have leaked.
The team was given a ninety-day deadline to submit its findings in January 2017 establishing whether the accident was a natural cause, technical issue or pilot’s error.
“The Cabinet Secretary did not allocate funds for the investigations. It was never funded at all,” said one senior official.
Among the things they were to establish were the contributory and mitigating factors both before and after the accident, the extent of the damage in terms of cost and loss, and the extent of injury to the crew.
The AW139 helicopter from Italy is a 15-seater suitable for search and rescue, maritime patrol and law enforcement, among other uses. It can also carry 8 VIPs.