Get to the bottom of row over Sh8bn Bunge Tower

A new towering structure in Nairobi’s central business district has added to the city’s beauty but, sadly, that is mainly its external appearance. Behind the Sh8 billion Bunge Tower facade is a looming crisis.

Questions are being raised about its Sh3 billion variance from the initial construction cost. And that is not all: MPs, for whom this imposing building has been constructed, are disappointed that the offices are not just too small but also poorly ventilated, have no natural lighting and the lifts are too slow.

But should these findings have waited until the project’s completion? Could they not have been identified earlier and remedial measures taken in good time? Where were they when the building was being designed, built and approved for use?

The initial cost of the building was Sh5 billion, when the project was mooted as a national symbol to create more offices to cater for the growing numbers of MPs. It was meant to host 349 members of the National Assembly and 67 senators.

There have been delays in construction and cost variation but it is now ready for occupation with the official opening by President William Ruto set for Friday. However, the MPs are calling for an investigation, alleging poor workmanship, branding the project a cash cow for some people.

However, Attorney-General Justin Muturi, a former Speaker of the National Assembly, thinks that some MPs only fear losing the money they get to pay rent elsewhere. An interesting take though is Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah’s comparison of the project with the Central Bank of Kenya’s Pension Towers, a 27-storey ultra-modern building that cost Sh2.49 billion. The 28-storey Bunge Tower started with a Sh5.89 billion budget, which was revised to Sh7.1 billion and finally Sh9.6 billion.

While MPs deserve comfort, due to the high cost of construction and meagre resources it’s not easy to build the pristine high-class office block they may desire. The lesson from this is the need to strictly monitor public projects and ensure they are implemented to the highest possible standards. Every stage must be checked to ensure it meets the specifications.