Economy

KDF purchase of Sh43bn arms from US faces Washington opposition

An Air Tractor. A military monitoring news organisation based in London reported yesterday that Kenya may have confused the AT-802L made by L-3 in Texas with an AT-802 aircraft manufactured by IOMAX in North Carolina. PHOTO | FILE
An Air Tractor. A military monitoring news organisation based in London reported yesterday that Kenya may have confused the AT-802L made by L-3 in Texas with an AT-802 aircraft manufactured by IOMAX in North Carolina. PHOTO | FILE 

A US congressman is seeking to halt Kenya’s pending $418 million (Sh43.3 billion) weapons purchase from a US contractor centred on 12 converted agricultural aircraft intended to bolster the Kenya Defence Force’s campaign against Al-Shabaab.

“My office has received credible allegations of faulty contracting practices, fraud and unfair treatment surrounding this sale,” Congressman Ted Budd said on Tuesday.

In urging his colleagues to block and investigate the deal, the North Carolina Republican said a company in his home state would sell Kenya planes better suited for their envisioned purpose at less than half the quoted price.

Kenya has agreed to pay the full $418 million cost of the deal centred on a dozen Air Tractor AT-802L aircraft, a US State Department official said last month.

The US Congress must approve the sale of the dozen Air Tractors, two trainer planes and related weapons systems manufactured by L-3 Communications, a Texas-based company.

Mr Budd is charging that the contract was awarded without competitive bidding to L-3 Communications, which, he said, “has no experience or track record producing this kind of aircraft”.

IOMAX, a company based in the congressman’s own district, can deliver to Kenya a more appropriate and proven type of aircraft for $283 million less than L-3’s price, said the congressman.

“We need to ensure that Kenya, a longtime ally, is getting a fair deal, and that veteran-owned small businesses in our state aren’t getting shut out of competition because of government favouritism towards giant contractors,” Mr Budd declared.

He did not elaborate on the purported fraud involved in Kenya’s deal with L-3, which has been given clearance by the US State Department. A military monitoring news organisation based in London reported yesterday that Kenya may have confused the AT-802L made by L-3 in Texas with an AT-802 aircraft manufactured by IOMAX in North Carolina.

Based on comments from an anonymous source said to be familiar with the deal, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reports: “Kenya requested the AT-802L from Air Tractor and its systems-integration partner (and prime) L3 Technologies on the basis of it being an already in service and combat-proven platform, confusing it with the IOMAX-developed AT-802 and the follow-on Archangel Border Patrol Aircraft that have been sold to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and regional allies.”

“As of yesterday,” this source added, “Kenya was completely unaware that L3 was not the company who built the 48 [IOMAX] aircraft [delivered to the UAE].”

According to a leaked “background document” cited by Jane’s, IOMAX is at present “the only contractor with a manned and weaponised BPA airframe approved for export from the US.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr Budd’s charges.