The controversy revolving around the buy-back of Telkom Kenya shares by the government of Kenya from Helios Investment Partners, a private Equity fund based in the UK, has found its way to the Nation Media Group (NMG) newsroom. It is understood that the story of the scandal, in which the government paid Ksh6.09 billion few days to the 9th August 2022 general elections, ran afoul a section of the senior Nation Media leadership.
The story touched off a heated public debate that ended with a parliamentary inquiry into how Jamhuri Holdings, the Mauritius-based subsidiary of Helios, was paid this huge amount of money to relinquish its 60% stake in Telkom Kenya as the country went into transitional elections.
According to the story, the government made a strategic decision to get back into Telkom Kenya with a view to turning around its dwindling fortunes. Besides, the transaction adviser of the deal, Mr John Ngumi who was seen as the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pointman, was paid Ksh400 million.
Weeks after the article on the illegal sale of Telkom Kenya to government by Helios, NMG chairman Wilfred Kiboro apparently ordered the sacking of Business Daily Managing Editor, Mr Michael Omondi.
This would appear shocking until you discover that Dennis Aluang’a, a director at NMG, is also a partner at Helios. Exposing the Helios-Telkom Kenya suspicious deal, in a way, meant implicating the NMG leader in the scam.
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Under the deal, the Government of Kenya paid Ksh6.09 billion to acquire 60% stake in Telkom Kenya from Helios just four days to last year’s general election. The National Treasury withdrew the Ksh6.09 billion on August 5, 2022, and paid Jamhuri Holdings Limited.
The Controller of Budget, Ms Margaret Nyakangó, told legislators during the inquiry that the National Treasury overruled her in the transaction, since the CoB must approve the withdrawal of cash from the government’s main accounts and has powers to block access to funds suspected to breach the law.
Meanwhile, Mr Kiboro and Aluang’a soon learned to their sorrow that sacking the editor was easier said than done: Mr Omondi would have easily won against them at the Labour court and hit Nation Media Group with massive damages, according to insiders.
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To save face, Nation Media appointed Omondi, an experienced business journalist with a nose for scandal, to be specials and investigations editor in 26th April changes that effectively took away his oversight from Business Daily.
Even with a tinge of scandal, the Helios-government deal marked a rare return of a privatised company to the state. France’s Orange in 2007 bought a majority share in Telkom Kenya but sold its stake to London-based Helios Investment in 2015.