Two members of the US Congress are sharply criticising a recent report by a government watchdog agency that favourably evaluated Kenya’s proposed $418 million (Sh43bn) purchase of US-made combat aircraft.
“We have serious concerns regarding the integrity of the report, and call into question the legitimacy of Government Accountability Office’s (Gao) findings and review,” Congressmen Ted Budd and Duncan Hunter wrote in a September 19 letter to the Government Accountability Office, which functions as Congress’ investigative arm.
“Bottom line: Gao’s report on this sale to Kenya is fundamentally flawed,” the congressmen declared.
The two Republican lawmakers noted in particular that the Gao “reached its findings without even speaking with Kenyan government officials”.
The investigators relied on the US Air Force’s account of communications with the Kenyan government and did not corroborate that account with Kenyan officials themselves, the congressmen observed in their letter to Gao chief Gene Dodaro.
The Government Accountability Office found in its September 5 report that the process involving the biggest arms deal in Kenyan history had been carried out in conformance with US law.
The Gao report also determined that “Kenya made a reasonable choice when it selected the AT-802L aircraft”.
Congressman Budd has repeatedly argued that the AT-802L is not the most advanced or most cost-effective option available to Kenya, which wants to buy up to a dozen specialised aircraft for use against Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
The AT-802L, manufactured by Texas-based Air Tractor and to be sold to Kenya under contract with New York-based L3 Technologies, is not battle-proven and carries an unnecessarily high price tag, Congressman Budd has said.
He claims that IOMAX, a company based in his own district in North Carolina, produces a combat-tested aircraft that would better suit Kenya’s needs and would cost $130 million less than the AT802-L planes Kenya is seeking to buy.
The Gao report, the two congressmen wrote, “ignored shortcomings in the acquisition process” that resulted in the Iomax alternative being “overlooked”.
Congressmen Budd and Hunter concluded their letter to the Gao leader by expressing their “extreme dissatisfaction with the effort undertaken to produce the ‘findings’ in the report”.
The Kenya arms deal is currently under scrutiny by a US Congress committee that has not set a date for release of its own findings.