By Citizens Against Corruption Graft Affairs Editor, Nairobi – September 27, 2019
It is hard to understand how individuals entrusted with billions of shillings in Public Coffers in Kenya have over the years decided to steal from their own motherland without an iota of shame. They live for today, tomorrow will take care of itself.
People holding positions of Cabinet Ministers, Principal Secretaries, Chief Executive Officers, Managing Directors, Members of Parliament, Senators, Speakers and Governors in Kenya, have entrenched themselves as a new tribe whose purpose in life is to steal public funds by any possible means regardless of consequences of the on-going War on Corruption. People leaving Kenya worse than they found it.
If anything they are on the front line as an army determined to frustrate the War on Corruption armed with the money they steal and aided by lawyers, magistrates, and judges who also live in order to enjoy the ill-gotten corruption proceeds. They are bitter their 2022 presidential election fund-raising scheme has been disrupted by the graft war.
The crooks steal from National Youth Service, National Security instruments, National Health Services, Food Security coffers, infrastructure projects, Education system, County governments and all other public institutions. No wonder Corruption and Public coffers plunder accounts for a third of the national budget meaning when Kenya plans a three-trillion-budget a trillion will end up in bank accounts of those thieves. Worse still, most of the stolen money ends up in offshore bank accounts to develop foreign countries and not Kenya.
It is in that light that the recently canceled Kimwarer Dam in Elgeyo Marakwet should be seen and understood. A pack of thieves conspired to gobble the public coffers the same way a pack of wolves devour a farmer’s sheep leaving a carcass of bones to rot away.
A multi-billion-shilling scandal that was hatched at the National Treasury headed by cabinet Minister Henry Rotich and executed through the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) chaired by a Chief Executive Francis Kipkech. His predecessor Managing Director David Kipchumba Kimosop was also charged. So was National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) CEO Geoffrey Wahungu. They are now organising ignorant residents to sign a petition to the president with ethnic spicing.
Three other officials from the Kerio Valley Development Authority and Ritich along with his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugget are in court. David Juma Onyango and Francis Chepkonga Kipkech from the Tender Committee, as well as Charity Mui (Ad hoc Technical and Financial Evaluation Committee Team 2) were arrested in connection with the Arrorand Kimwarer dams scandal.
For a dam that might never be built, Kenya taxpayers paid Ksh22 billion and the chances are that it will never be recovered. The thieves did not care about thousands of fellow citizens who frequently feed on wild berries during droughts. They did not care about food security not only in Elgeyo Marakwet but the entire nation of Kenya.
A confidential technical report presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta a fortnight ago contains details why the government had to stop the Kimwarer project and order the Ministry of Water and Sanitation to carry out a restricted re-tendering for Arror dam.
The two dams contracts had been awarded to a bankrupt Italian company, CMC di Ravenna, which was unable to start the projects despite receiving down payments. It, however, was used as a conduit for billions of shillings that were transmitted to Italy then back to Kenya to be shared among new Jubilee government millionaires. The firm’s directors are among those charged over the plunder.
President Kenyatta was angry that the Kimwarer project, in particular, was based on a feasibility study carried out 28 years ago during the notorious dictator Daniel arap Moi free-wheeling Corruption era . Further, Kimwarer dam was to be a geological disaster and would have been built on top of a seismic fault line identified in 1991 and which required freshassessment before any commencement of real works.
“Although the Kimwarer dam design was done in detail in 1991, the fact that no other consultant review has since been undertaken does not give the team the confidence that this project can be progressed without going through a detailed re-validation,” the report handed to the President says.
“The tectonic fault cutting across the proposed Kimwarer dam has not been investigated to establish its effect on the structural integrity of the reservoir.” sais part of the damning report. The other problem was that Kimwarer, unlike Arror, was to be a pumping scheme for both domestic and irrigation water and would have incurred high maintenance costs.
Arror Dam has been in government proposals since 1986 and was projected to cost Ksh414 million, but due to lack of funds, it never materialised. A feasibility study then had already been done by Italian firm B&B SpA, while a separate feasibility study was done for Kimwarer Dam by G&G SpA.
While recent feasibility studies had been done on Arror, there is no current study on Kimwarer, which is a prerequisite in any tendering. The Arror dam, however, passed the litmus test since it has low maintenance costs and its domestic and irrigation water will flow through gravity.
Initially, KVDA had wanted to build a Ksh25.9 billion 96-metre-high rock fill dam in Arror which would have required more acreage and money to compensate the land owners. Such scheme invites speculators to buy land for resale to the government. Indeed, Cabinet Secretary Rotich is reported to have purchased 300 acres to resell to KVDA for Kimwarer Dam.
But the technical reassessment of the project has found that a smaller dam of 55 metres would have been built to meet similar needs for the area and for only $168 million (Sh16.8 billion).
The report says that a scaled-down dam would also be financially viable since it has a positive internal rate of return — a measure used to calculate the profitability of potential investments. Lately, land compensation has become the cash cow for wheeler-dealers.
The technical team was surprised that Ksh7.1 billion ($71 million) was set aside for “preliminaries” and which left only Ksh18.8 billion as the amount provided in the Bill of Quantities for the actual construction of the dam. Why a project would spend more than 20 per cent of the total budget on preliminaries was yet another red flag that this project had been overpriced – thanks to the greed for taxpayers’ money by the people entrusted to guard it.
According to the technical team, putting more money into preliminaries “resulted in under-provision of key components of the dam and, in particular, the spillway, which was priced at Ksh290 million as opposed to an estimated cost of Ksh2.6 billion”. That meant that the dam would have cost much more money later and aid in looting more public funds.
The technical report justifies the cancellation of the contract, arguing that with the under-provision of the cost of the spillway, the taxpayer would have paid an extra Ksh3 billion with the cost of the entire project rising to Ksh28 billion. Elgeyo Markwet Senator and Jubilee government overnight millionaire described the technical committee team as a funeral committee hired by the president to burry Kimwarer dam.
However, the team’s verdict was that “If Kimwarer is undertaken by another contractor and the preliminary and general items are scaled down to realistic costs and also the consultancy services and professional fees excluded, the dam is expected to cost Ksh17.2 billion.”
It also observes that “an optimised Arror dam with reduced height from 96 metres to 60 metres high dam would be the least cost solution estimated to cost Ksh15.4 billion”.
However there were fears that Kenya could end up with a white elephant in Elgeyo-Marakwet, and questions as to whether the river, or rather, the catchment area, can fill a 96-metre-high Arror dam. Experts reported that given the prevailing hydrological patterns in the region, it was not easy to fill such a dam.
Rainfall data and hydrological assessment indicate that water flows have drastically decreased since 1961 from 80 million cubic metres to 30 million cubic metres in 1985 and, since there is no data since 1985, it was not clear how KVDA and Treasury officials came up with a 96-metre-high dam.
Minus the hydrological data, the report says, “this casts doubt on whether the proposed 96-metre-high dam has been matched to the prevailing hydrological trend… in absence of current data, it is realistic to conclude that the 96-metre-high dam is an over-design that would result into underutilised capacity.”
It was this fear of “underutilised capacity” — in other words, a white elephant — that saw the engineers redesign the entire project.