President cancels Kimwarer dam project, says not viable

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019 12:00 |
Agricultural firm. Photo/File

The move by President Uhuru Kenyatta to terminate construction of the Kimwarer dam in Elgeyo Marakwet county could open a Pandora’s box with the taxpayer standing to lose up to Sh22 billion that has already been paid out.

But  the Sh28.3 billion Arror dam, its twin troubled project, was spared the guillotine. Its construction will go on with cost rationalisation plan. 

In a press statement issued by State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo, the President yesterday cancelled the multi-billion-shilling project following recommendations by a technical committee chaired by Infrastructure Principal secretary Paul Maringa.

The committee, which presented its report to Uhuru at State House, Nairobi, concluded that the project was not financially or technically viable, a move that could further widen the simmering political rift in the ruling Jubilee Party. 

But in a quick reaction, Senate Leader of Majority, who is also Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, said the recommendations made by the committee confirmed his long-held view that the intention was to kill the project. He accused the committee of misleading the President.

The senator also questioned the composition of the committee saying it did not reflect ethnic and regional balance.

“The technical committee did not consult anyone, neither did it carry out any public participation,” he said.

The controversy surrounding the construction of the two dams has seen Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his PS  Kamau Thugge charged with corruption.  

The tender to build the dams had been awarded to Italian contractor CMC di Ravenna.

The two officials are among more than 10 others who have been charged with multiple counts including abuse of office, conspiracy to commit an economic crime, conferring a benefit and single sourcing insurance cover for the projects, and illegally approving payment, contrary to the law.

Announcing the cancellation of the Kimwarer project, the President also ordered for the commencement of the Sh28.3 billion Arror dam because the technical committee had found it to be economically viable.

Raises eyebrows

Interestingly, the committee established that no current reliable feasibility study had been conducted on the Kimwarer project — a revelation that raises eyebrows.

The only study carried out on a similar project 28 years ago had revealed a geological fault across the 800-acre project area, which would have negative structural effects on the proposed dam, the committee noted.

The committee also established that the project area is settled and would require compensation for the residents. Other than Prof Maringa, other members of the technical committee were quantity surveyor and engineer Benjamin Mwangi and John Muiruri.

According to the technical design of the Kimwarer Dam, the water supply mechanism would involve pumping, an aspect the committee found to be unsustainable in terms of operations and maintenance costs.

The President formed the team after the media was inundated with claims of corruption and other irregularities involving the proposed dams.

Deputy President William Ruto has on several occasions insisted that no money was lost in the two projects, terming such reports as propaganda. He argued that construction will continue as planned. 

“We are a competent government and it is our responsibility to protect public resources and to get value for every shilling we are spending,” DP Ruto said in July. 

This is a position held by many of his close allies including Murkomen, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and Soy MP Caleb Kositany.

Yesterday, Murkomen urged the President to constitute a new committee to study the project, adding that Maringa’s report amounted to ethnic profiling. “

They have no knowledge or attachment to the area and have misled the President,” he said.

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