Top Stories / National
Sunday, 23 Apr 2017 13:28 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
A top Jubilee government official has enlisted the support of a number of opposition MPs from the Kamba community to delay the construction of the Sh36 billion Thwake Multipurpose Dam whose tender has been embroiled in a legal dispute for the last several months.
Sources in the National Assembly told this website that the top official received a Sh360 million bribe from a Chinese company associated with Sinohydro Tianjin Engineering Limited that was awarded the tender in complete violation of procurement laws. Sinohydro had quoted the second lowest bid, but the lowest which should have won the tender was from China Gezhouba Group (also Chinese) which appealed the decision with the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB).
Last week, the Board reversed the tender to Sinohydro, which was singularly awarded by former Irrigation Principal Secretary Mwangi Nduati, and ordered the government to award it to China Gezhouba Group. The Board's ruling censured Mr Nduati’s decision to ignore advise from the Attorney-General and the African Development Bank (AfDB), which will finance 35 percent of the project.
“It is regrettable that the accounting officer (PS Nduati) could so blatantly act so illegally on this matter. It is shocking that the ministry even decided to ignore lawful advice from the Attorney General and even the bank,” said Mr Paul Gicheru, the chairman of the PPARB.
According to sources who preferred to remain anonymous, Mr Nduati, who was the accounting officer in the ministry, repeatedly clashed with cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa over the project as he enjoyed the backing of the higher official. He also ignored the advice of Ministerial Tender Committee which reviews procurement processes in the ministry.
According to an MP in the Agriculture Committee that investigated the controversial award of the tender, big money changed hands in the deal, with the top Jubilee leader receiving Sh360 as the first installment of Sh3.6 billion - 10 percent markup on the project cost, from companies associated with Sinohydro.
The National Assembly's investigation unearthed the fact that the PS informed Sinohydro of its tender award without Mr Wamalwa's knowldge. In fact, Mr Wamalwa was away in Turkana County on the day the PS wrote to the company, where he had traveled with American Ambassador Robert Godec for the launch of a groundwater mapping programme.
Incidentally, while Mr Wamalwa was opposed to the award and told MPs as much, he had lately come to support it, the MP told us, allegedly because, as the Procurement Review Board's decision was awaited, the senior Jubilee official had lobbied ministry insiders to look at the tender award from his perspective.
According to the source, the reversal of the tender caused panic as the bribe-givers indicated that assurances to give Sinohdro the tender would have to be obeyed or their money refunded. This at a time when many government officials are also divided on the issue since their opinions had been ignored.
Given these challenges, the top official is believed to have reached out to the Kamba MPs and persuaded them "to stir controversy' over the project by claiming the Jubilee government was intent on using it as a campaign tool. According to the plan, the MPs are required to capitalise on the grievances of families around the proposed dam site who have been demanding for compensation before the construction work can begin.
The residents were supposed to have vacated the site by February but they are yet to since their compensation funds have delayed. A great deal of the compensation fund is also believed to have been misappropriated, and the police is currently investigating the whereabouts of some funds earmarked for the compensation.
"The official's hope is that if the project can rise to the top of Ukambani people's political agenda even for a few days, he would travel to the region himself and assure the people that all issues would be handled after the elections," said an MP who is familiar with the matter.