Mega dams derailed by rows over tender billions


Dams are emerging as the new conduits of corruption following reports after reports said President Uhuru Kenyatta reshuffled his principal secretaries following the proposed Sh62.3 billion Thwake Dam tiff.

Top government sources on Sunday revealed that Mr Patrick Nduati, former Water and Irrigation PS, was spared the sack by the President, who was unhappy with the controversy surrounding the contract pitting him against his Cabinet Secretary, Mr Eugene Wamalwa.

While that tussle has been ended with Mr Nduati’s departure, the decision awaits the outcome of an appeal filed at the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) by China Gezhouba Construction Group Corporation. The company lost out despite having submitted the lowest bid and got the clearance of the African Development Bank (AfDB), co-funders of the project.

“The President was not happy about the whole controversy,” said the source. “After a briefing with those concerned, he decided to make a reshuffle of accounting officers with Mr Nduati as the target.

“He is concerned about the need for the country to have enough water for irrigation to make Kenya food-secure.”

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigated the matter and advised against awarding the contract. Attorney-General Githu Muigai also gave a negative opinion on the company which the PS insisted on giving the contract, it emerged.

The controversy was only the latest in a string of disputes that have marked the construction of dams and delayed the benefits to millions of Kenyans. As the new Irrigation PS, Ms Zeinab Hussein was handed the onerous task of ensuring that funds are not lost through the contract.

On Sunday, the chairman of the National Assembly’s Agriculture Committee said the concerns of Members of Parliament were that, while the project had been mooted in 2013 and pre-qualification of the firms in the tender had begun in 2015, the whole thing was taking very long.

“We wanted to correct issues but there was a lot of distortion of the story,” said Mr Adan Nooru. “We were concerned that everything that touches on food security in this country is not taking off.

“The only way of getting food security is irrigating arable land. The whole concept was good but the implementation has been a problem.
“It is failing or is not taking off.”

The same could as well be said of other dam projects that have been characterised by reports of corruption, delayed payments to contractors, resistance by communities near the proposed sites and demands for compensation by those being relocated.

In Kitui County, Mrs Charity Ngilu, the then-Water minister, led residents in ejecting the contractor from the site, escalating a row that resulted in the abandonment of the Umaa project.

The dispute had to be settled through arbitration but the end result was that a dam initially set to cost Sh800 million will now cost Sh400 million more and construction will probably end eight years after construction began.

Umaa was one of five dams that the Kibaki administration started. Only three had been commissioned, with legal disputes delaying the other two. The dams started over the past seven years are Maruba, Chemusus, Umma, Kiserian and Badasa.

In Tharaka-Nithi, problems have started even before construction of the biggest water project in recent years, the High Grand Falls Dam. The dam is budgeted to cost Sh150 billion and is expected to hold over 5.6 billion cubic metres of water that will be used to irrigate over 250,000 hectares of land and produce more than 700 megawatts of electricity.

The plan could, however, be delayed by demands for compensation led by Governor Samuel Ragwa, who has said that those to be moved relocated should be paid at the same rate as those who moved for the standard gauge railway.

Last April, Baringo residents denied geologists access to the proposed site of the Sh5 billion Radat Mega Dam.

Lost in the reports about the scam at the National Youth Service (NYS) was the revelation that the agency had lied that it was constructing dams.

The NYS had been given Sh3.6 billion in the 2013/14 Budget for the construction of dams, which was more than half the amount Parliament had approved for the projects. Of that, Sh3.1 billion was committed by the NYS for the job, the Auditor-General said in his report of the special audit of the institution.

However, said the Auditor-General, only Sh1.8 billion was transferred to the then-Environment ministry by the Planning Department with the work being done by NYS servicemen. In its report on, the NYS said 212 were being constructed.

When auditors went to 35 locations in October 2015, they were surprised.

“All of the facilities visited were ‘water pans’ and not ‘water dams’ as had been indicated,” said the auditor.

The report concluded that it could not verify whether the Sh1.8 billion was well spent as there were no records while the cost of the job could also not be established because the construction and the manpower was from the NYS.

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