Legal battle looms as lawmakers says BRT not value for money 

BRT station

A Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) station under construction along the Thika Superhighway in this picture taken on August 17, 2021.

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

A legal battle between the Kenyan government and Chinese companies involved in the Sh5.58 billion Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) project in Nairobi is looming after MPs said it has not offered value for money.

The two Chinese construction firms—STECOL Corporation in a joint venture with SMEDI—were contracted by the government to construct the 27.4-kilometre Ruiru-Nairobi Central Business District- Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) BRT on February 12, 2020.

This could be an indication that the MPs are targeting the projects started under former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration without fully appreciating the legal consequences.

The construction is overseen by the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (Namata) and was to last 18 months. However, more than three years down the line, the project is yet to be completed, with the government having already pumped in Sh951.8 million in advance payment. The completion date was extended by 37.5 months to September 15.

The project, as of yesterday, was 55 per cent complete and the government is required to pay Sh1.97 billion for the work done so far. This will bring the government’s entire expenditure on the project to Sh2.9 billion, inclusive of the advance payment.

The BRT project has five lines—Ndovu, Simba, Chui, Kifaru and Nyati—all interlinked within the Nairobi CBD. Phase I of the project involved the 23.7-kilometre Ruiru-Nairobi CBD line, with Phase II being the 3.7-kilometre line from CBD to KNH.

Yesterday, Namata acting Director-General Francis Gitau was surprised after members of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee of the National Assembly told him that “we see no value for money in the project unless you really convince us”.

Committee chairman George Kariuki threw the first salvo at Namata when he said that “we are in doubt whether the country has gotten value for the money”. 

“There is no reason why we should support your budget unless you really convince us because we are not convinced,” said Mr Kariuki, noting that the committee will visit the project to see what the government has so far paid.

Mr Gitau pleaded with the committee to see the need of approving funds to complete the project.

“If we plan like European countries using this project, Kenya will be fantastic in terms of easing traffic on the congested roads within the Nairobi metropolis,” he said.

Central link

Limuru MP Kiragu Chege wondered why the government was keen to have the Nairobi CBD as the central link of the project when “there is every indication that people are moving away from the city centre”.

“Who are you planning this project for? We see people trying all they can to avoid the Nairobi CBD. A majority of Kenyans also walk to workplaces that are not necessarily within the Nairobi CBD,” said Mr Kiragu as he demanded to know how many matatus crews will be rendered jobless by the project.

If the MPs fail to approve the funds to complete the project, the Kenyan government could be easily sued and forced to pay billions of shillings for breach of the agreement.

Ndovu line is a 48.5-kilometre stretch gazetted in 2019 and covers Limuru-Kangemi-CBD-Imara Daima-Athi River-Kitengela. It is funded by the Chinese government. The Simba line is 73.5 kilometres, covering Rongai-Bomas-Nairobi CBD-Ruiru-Thika-Kenol and was funded by the government of Kenya.

Chui line is 81.2 kilometres long and has Tala-Njiru-Dandora-Nairobi CBD-Showground (Ngong road)-Ngong and is funded by the European Union and African Development Bank. Kifaru is the 30.8-kilometre Mama Lucy Hospital-Donholm-Nairobi CBD- T-Mall- Bomas-Karen-Kikuyu line. The Nyati line is 23.9 kilometres and covers Ridgeways-Balozi-Imara Daima.


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