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Private mission delayed police plane on day of Garissa University attack

Military personnel help a student to evacuate

Military personnel help a student to evacuate from Garissa University College following a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 148 people. GSU Recce Company were unable to use a Kenya Police Airwing plane on the morning of the attack as it it was flying a small group of civilians from Mombasa. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Inspector-General of Police has received a brief confirming that a Kenya Police Airwing plane was not immediately available to fly the GSU Recce Company on the morning of the Garissa University College terrorist attack because it was flying a small group of civilians from Mombasa.

The police boss had demanded an explanation in the wake of media reports on Saturday that the aeroplane had flown on an unauthorised lease to Mombasa.

Contacted by the Nation on Sunday, the IG, Mr Joseph Boinnet, said the matter had been brought to his attention and preliminary investigations showed that the crew “were on an instruction flight”.

He said that he had ordered an inquiry on the flight.

Another investigation is already under way, looking into all aspects of the Garissa terrorist attack that officially claimed 148 lives, all but six of them students.

The inquiry involves a wide range of issues and the aircraft situation was just one of them, Mr Boinnet said. He clarified that what he had demanded immediately was an explanation following press reports on the aircraft, not an investigation.

The Nation has independently received information that the aircraft in question had flown relatives of the Airwing commandant and an unidentified businessman.

“We do not allow unauthorised persons to use our aircraft. In case that happened, action will be taken,” the IG said.

PROBE CHOPPER BLADES PURCHASE

The revelation came just a day ahead of an investigation expected to be launched Monday into the controversial purchase of helicopter rotor blades bought at what is believed to be an inflated cost of Sh42 million.

The blades were delivered to the Airwing headquarters at Wilson Airport on Friday at 1am in a manner that raised questions because of suspect documentation.

On the Garissa incident, the Nation established that the Police Cessna 208B aircraft registration number 5YPOL had left Wilson Airport on April 2 at around 7.30am and arrived in Mombasa at around 9.30am.

The crew – acting Senior Superitendent James Kabo and an Inspector Mutai – had been instructed by the Kenya Police Airwing commandant, Mr Rogers Mbithi, to fly to Mombasa to pick up his daughter-in-law and her child.

Mr Boinnet had been immediately briefed about the unofficial flight, but it was not until Saturday that he directed that his office be furnished with a full report regarding the movement of the aircraft.

Consequently a brief was prepared in which Mr Mbithi said that the woman was his daughter-in-law but did not disclose who the businessman was.

LEFT MOMBASA

The movement of the aircraft for two days, according to the Authorisation Sheet, shows that the aircraft left Mombasa at 9.35am, arriving at Wilson at 11.35am.

It than left for Garissa at 12.30pm, with one team of Recce Company officers, about seven minutes after the first aircraft, registration number 5Y-GSU had left with the first batch. It landed at Garissa at 1.55pm and 10 minutes later left on the return flight to Nairobi, arriving at 3.30pm.

It again left Nairobi at 3.45pm for Garissa, arriving at 5.15pm for an overnight stay. The following day, it left Garissa at 10.40am and landed at the Wilson Airport at noon.

According to sources, turf wars and the opaque manner in which the unit is run has negatively affected its operations. Investigations reveal that the ongoing wars revolve around procurement of aircraft parts, maintenance and the training of pilots.

Sources have told the Nation that serious investigations have not been launched over corrupt deals at the unit and allegations that the aircraft are used in training civilians, contrary to regulations.

The officer who flew the aircraft to Mombasa last week was mentioned in a report filed in August 2013 which claimed that he took two police pilots to Mombasa for their final training before they acquired the licenses. However, they had to return to the unit amid claims that the aircraft was being used for unathorised training of civilian trainee pilots.

Separately, the blades brought to the airport on Friday night were bought after another set purchased last year only worked for two hours.

ONLY TWO FLIGHT HOURS

The unit bought a main rotor system from suppliers in Ukraine at a cost of Sh13 million that had only two flight hours left before expiry.

After the system — five blades for the MI-17 helicopter registration 5Y-EDM — expired, the helicopter was grounded.

An official from the Ministry of the Interior said that the matter was under investigation but the findings were yet to be made public.

According to a police source, new rotor blades for an MI-17 were delivered on Friday but with no proper documentation. Some of the papers showed that they were shipped in from Poland, though the country does not have any plants manufacturing the blades. On Saturday, a senior government official expressed concerns over the quality of the blades.

The amount spent to buy them was also not clear. Although the Office of the President reportedly paid Sh42 million for the blades, other documents showed that they could have cost only Sh9 million.

The officer who cleared the blades from the airport has maintained that there were no documents but the supplier had been contacted to send them next week.

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