By KEVIN J. KELLEY
A US Congress investigative committee has demanded it be provided with key documents related to the proposed Sh43 billion sale to Kenya of armed border-patrol aircraft intended for use against Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
The US Air Force, which arranged the deal, was ordered by the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee to produce a set of specified materials “as soon as possible, but no later than noon on June 2.”
Congressman Ted Budd, the leading critic of the pending agreement between the Kenyan government and New York-based L3 Technologies, welcomed the committee’s action as “the next step on a long road to finding out what actually happened with the Kenya deal.”
“We’ll soon find out if this flawed sale is the result of incompetence, or if there is something more serious going on,” Congressman Budd said on Tuesday.
In a letter last week to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the chairman of the US House oversight committee noted that “L3 has no weaponised border patrol aircraft in service and has limited past performance in manufacturing aircraft of this type.”
Iomax, a military contractor based in Congressman Budd’s district in the state of North Carolina, has 48 of these planes currently in combat service in the Middle East.
Iomax has said it can fulfill Kenya’s request for a dozen of the armed border-patrol aircraft and related items and services for Sh20 billion less than the amount L3 is said to be charging.
The cost of the proposed agreement between Kenya and L3 indicates that US “taxpayers and American allies have been overcharged by millions,” Congressman Budd said on Tuesday.
The Republican lawmaker noted that the Air Force has “stonewalled” his own requests for documents pertaining to the Kenya-L3 arrangement. He said was told by the Air Force that the documents in question were “for official use only” or “sensitive, but unclassified.”
“The Air Force has the legal capability to frustrate my inquiry,” Congressman Budd declared on Tuesday, “but they can’t stonewall the Oversight Committee.’
He has previously suggested that favouritism toward a politically influential military contract may have accounted for the Air Force’s effort to steer the Kenya contract to L3 rather than to Iomax.
“A secretive acquisition unit of the Air Force known as Big Safari” is behind the deal, Congressman Budd has said.
In his letter to Air Force Secretary Wilson, oversight committee chairman Jason Chaffetz seeks “all documents and communications referring or relating to the proposed armed airborne ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] contract from the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), US Liaison Office in the US Embassy in Nairobi, the US Air Force and the Government of Kenya.”