An Augusta Westland police helicopter that was being used for surveillance has been reconfigured, rebranded and is waiting to be handed over to the Office of the Deputy President, Rigathi Gachagua for his personal use.
The chopper, which was previously used for surveillance, will be for the DP’s official and non-official movements across the country. It initially had national police colours, and registration number 5Y-DIG. Sources have told us that is now white, with the Kenyan flag emblazoned around it. What is now waiting is delivery to the DP.
This has left police with just one surveillance and operational chopper, leaving senior police officers seething with rage. The police airwing has for years been barely operational as corruption has forced all its choppers to be grounded.
The Chopper that Gachagua is taking is one of three Augusta Westland helicopters, and four Bell Augusta choppers, acquired in 2017 from Italy at a cost of Sh4.8 billion. The other helicopters 5Y-EDM, 5Y-STA and 5Y-SFA have been grounded since December 2017.
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5Y-POL and 5Y-GSU, which are caravan planes, are also sitting at Wilson, raising questions about the training of pilots, procurement, safety management, maintenance and airworthiness of the aircraft owned by the police.
It is still unclear why the government would take one of the two only functional police aircraft and transform it into a VIP carrier when the country is facing a lot of security challenges, especially cattle rustling and terrorism which require quick response.
Sources aware of the developments said the military brought in experts from Egypt who dismantled expensive surveillance gadgets installed in a police Agusta AW139 to make it for passenger use and in particular for use by Gachagua.
After the configuration, the chopper was taken for the first tests on January 11 and 12. It was given a clean bill of health and returned to Wilson Airport for repainting to Kenya’s colours before the DP takes it.
The acquisition of the chopper by the DP comes just four months after his office announced it was seeking a helicopter for his use from private companies.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s office is seeking helicopter and fixed airwing services in the latest tender notice. In a notice published on September 27, the DP’s office called on interested Kenyans to submit their bids.
“Interested eligible bidders may obtain further information from and inspect the bidding documents at the Procurement Office Harambee House Annex 1” Floor, in person or against a written application.
“A complete set of bidding documents may be purchased by interested bidders upon payment of a non-refundable fee of Ksh1,000 per set/tender in Cash at the Cash Office situated at 1st floor, Harambee House Annex, Harambee Avenue or in banker’s cheque payable to the Secretary Administration, Office of the Deputy President OR download the document for free from the website,” read the notice in part.
The idea was however shelved in October after State House Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service, Felix Koskei, wrote to the Inspector General of Police requesting the handover of one of the two operational Augusta AW139 choppers to Kenya Airforce for use by the DP.