Prison’s bullet-proof jackets cannot protect warders from rifle fire – PAC

Ugunja MP and Chairman Public Accounts Committee Opiyo Wandayi (Photo:Collins Oduor)

The Prisons department splashed Sh43 million on defective bullet-proof jackets that cannot after all shield warders from rifle fire or knife stab.

The department is also on the spot over Sh6.2 billion pending bills, some of which are arising from fictitious supplies of food and other commodities to prisons.

The details emerged yesterday when National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi opened investigations into the questionable purchases.

Correctional Services Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein confessed that the bullet proof jackets costing Sh22 million and vests valued at Sh21 million “lacked ballistic panels” meant to protect users against rifle fire and pointed instruments attacks.

Ballistic tests by the department revealed they could only withstand bullet penetration for short-range caliber weapons.

She said the gear was bought “for practice in Prisons Staff Training College and not for combat purposes”.

“This is also to bring to your attention that the local purchase order raised only requested for bullet proof jackets as stated in the specifications. The ballistic plate is an additional item in the specifications,” she said.

The lawmakers, however, pressed her further on value for money in the purchase after it emerged that they were bought at Sh70,000 per unit, a figure the MPs lamented was exaggerated.

Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu, who is a retired military officer, said the jackets were substandard and “for use by civilians and not security officers who most of the time are targeted by high caliber rifles”.

A report by Auditor General Edward Ouko disclosed that the 600 body armour jackets were delivered to the department without the ballistic plates.

Ouko said the department did not obtain value for money in respect of the spending worth Sh43,272,500.

The department had then argued that it bought the body armours for use by warders whenever they are called to provide back up for other security agencies in cases of emergencies.