Police tricks were ‘worse than those used to rig an election’

The appalling catalogue of bribery, skullduggery and impunity that dogged the recent controversial police recruitment across the country can be revealed after weeklong investigations by the Sunday Nation.

Authorities investigating the recruitment that caused a storm are shocked by the extent of disregard for the laid=down procedures in picking candidates as the country grapples with runaway insecurity, including terrorist attacks.

The process that cost taxpayers Sh2.9 billion was the most extensive in country’s history and targeted 10,000 recruits.

According to multiple sources and documents accessed by the Sunday Nation, phantom lists replaced genuine ones, senior officers in some of the stations received as much as Sh1 million in bribes to influence the process, and “strangers” were ferried into the recruitment venues in the wee hours of the morning to replace those who participated in the day-long event, prompting a senior investigator to say the tricks were “worse than those used to rig elections”.

National Police Service Commission (NPSC)chairman Johnston Kavuludi and Inspector-General David Kimaiyo are now in the spotlight to restore the credibility of the institution after the fiasco that has put to question security sector reforms envisioned in the 2010 Constitution.

Questions have also been raised as to whether all 10,000 slots were subject to recruitment as insiders told Sunday Nation that politicians, senior police officers and top government bureaucrats were allegedly allocated at least 2,000 slots for their cronies. This was allegedly to buy their silence.

Parliament on Wednesday ordered the NPSC to postpone the reporting date of the new recruits to allow investigations, with reporting dates moved from August 5 to October 3. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) have asked that the entire process be cancelled.

Even though the NPSC has formed a multi-agency committee to investigate the allegations, insiders told the Sunday Nation that the team may recommend a repeat of the process in a few stations just to ease the pressure.

Yesterday, in a fresh turn of events, IPOA vowed to go court “soon” to have the recruitment repeated countrywide.

“IPOA wants it cancelled and done afresh. Corruption being perpetrated at this level gives a seal of approval to the vice that has been associated with the service for years,” said IPOA chairman Macharia Njeru in response to our inquiries.

Recruitment regulations

Mr Njeru added that cancelling the process will allow the police to table recruitment regulations and gazette them before the fresh start.

“We want the rules and regulations discussed, and gazetted before recruitment. We want the rules to provide for personal responsibility, including surcharging officers involved in bungling the process. These officers must be barred from holding any public office in future,” he said.

He added that the Kenya National Audit office needed to be involved, in addition to other observers.

Earlier in the week, Mr Kavuludi defended the process, arguing that if proof of impropriety was found, the recruitment would be cancelled in the affected centres.

Recorded complaints show that some centres were reduced to market places where the highest bidders were given slots.

In one centre in Bungoma County, senior police officers allegedly received more than Sh1 million from 12 recruits. Other officers in the same county received between Sh100,000 to Sh300,000.
The recruitment “auction” was extended to Mogotio, Eldama Ravine, Ol Kalou, Nairobi, Kakamega, Embu, Baringo and Kiambu with huge amounts of money changing hands.

Bizarre stories told of “ghost candidates” being bussed into the centres in the wee hours of the morning to replace genuine ones who took part in the daylong event, despite being ravaged by fatigue and sleep but kept vigil throughout the night.

This happened in centres in Kitui, Nairobi, Meru, Uasin Gishu, Wajir, Embu and Kakamega counties.

According to sources close to the investigations, in some Nairobi centres, for example, the exercise dragged on until 9 a.m. the following morning; the strangers were brought in around 6 a.m.

“It was assumed that by this time, genuine candidates would be too tired and sleepy to recognise what was happening in the centres or some would have given up and just left,” said a source, who was involved in monitoring the recruitment but did not wish to be named.

Turned away

At Kinoru Stadium in Meru, potential recruits were turned away after midnight, having been at the venue throughout the day. According to some participants, they were chased away without clear reasons why they were disqualified despite passing all the requisite tests.

“Others never turned up during the day but were seen coming to the field, specifically for medical tests, and were eventually selected for recruitment,” said a participant from Meru who recorded a complaint.

The situation was the same in Runyenjes where the process allegedly went on past midnight, and strangers were seen sauntering into the stadium the following morning before they were recruited.

This also happened in Wakirigo Stadium in Ol Kalou where the panel was accused of locking itself in a room for hours before coming up with a verdict that pushed the exercise past midnight.
In Wajir, recruiting officers had lists of their preferred candidates who did not go through the process.

The shambolic nature of the exercise was displayed in instances where some candidates were admitted on the strength of their results slips while others were kicked out and told to provide school certificates. This was noted in Tarbaj centre in Wajir and Kyuso District in Kitui.

IPOA and EACC have written to the police demanding that the recruitment be cancelled.

“EACC wishes to recommend cancellation of the recruitment with a view of conducting afresh. NPS to reconsider decision to use District Recruitment Committees, and NPS to institute disciplinary and administrative action on the officers implicated in the improprieties,” wrote EACC CEO Halake Waqo in a letter dated July 18. Sunday Nation - July 27th, 2014.

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