Dams: The new cash cow for tenderpreneurs in Kenya

Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui. His ministry is planning construction of 57 dams countrywide. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The Lake Basin Development Authority is investing in the Magwagwa and Nandi Forest dams which are estimated to cost Sh86 billion and Sh50 billion respectively.
  • Last week the government cancelled the tender for the construction of the Sh200 billion worth High Grand Falls dam.

Dam construction is the latest cash cow for tenderpreneurs under the Jubilee government.

Deals worth Sh700 billion to construct the water facilities have been entered into or are awaiting signing.

Investigators are now raising questions on the huge amounts involved in construction of the dams and whether there will be value for money.

Daily Nation investigations have also revealed that procurement processes and construction of most of the dams are being carried out under the Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPCF) scheme, where the contractor is not only responsible to engineer, procure and construct the project, but also has to finance it, a model that is prone to abuse.


An analysis by the Daily Nation has revealed that since 2013, various government agencies have signed or are planning to enter into contracts worth over Sh700 billion for the construction of dams.

Yesterday, Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said that his ministry is planning construction of 57 dams countrywide.

“Some of the dams in the news are multi-year projects which take a lot of time from conception to construction. Feasibility studies are undertaken to determine the viability of the projects, followed by detailed design and design review.

"Most of the proposed 57 dams are still at the feasibility studies and detailed design stages,” Mr Chelugui said.

Currently, the ministry is constructing five dams at a cost of Sh142.5 billion, in deals signed after 2013.

The dams are Thwake (in Kitui/Makueni counties), at a cost of Sh37 billion; Siyoi Muruny (West Pokot County), at a cost of Sh5 billion; Itare (Nakuru County), worth Sh28 billion; the Sh1.2 billion dam for the regeneration of Sagana rivers in Nyeri County; and the Sh24 billion Karemenu in Kiambu County.


The Ministry of Water and Sanitation has also signed tenders for the construction of the Sh13 billion Mwache dam in Kwale County, Sh20 billion Bosto dam in Bomet County and Ruiru II dam in Kiambu County costing Sh17 billion.

The ministry will also spend billions of shillings for the construction of Kithino dam in Meru, Amaya dam in Baringo, Kabazi in Nakuru, Bute Dam in Wajir, Ndarugu dam in Kiambu, Londiani dam in Kericho, Soin Koru in Kisumu/Kericho, Malewa in Nyandaru and Crocodile Jaws in Isiolo County.

“In the implementation of dam projects, the ministry plays the role of coordination, resource mobilisation and policy direction.

"The implementing agencies are the water service boards and National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority. There are several other dams under implementation by other agencies outside the Ministry of Water and Sanitation,” Mr Chelugui said.

The controversial Arror and Kimwarer dams are being implemented by the Kerio Valley Development Authority at a cost of Sh38 billion and Sh28 billion respectively. Construction of the two dams is being undertaken by Italian firm CMC di Ravenna.


Already, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations is studying the payment of Sh21 billion to the Italian firm whose officials, despite receiving the money, are alleged not to have visited the site. It is also alleged that the project is yet to be designed.

The Lake Basin Development Authority is investing in the Magwagwa and Nandi Forest dams which are estimated to cost Sh86 billion and Sh50 billion respectively.

According to project documents, the Magwagwa Dam, to be located in Nyamira County, is expected to provide water for a 13,000-hectare irrigation scheme whose benefits will spread across Kisumu, Kericho, Nyamira, Homa Bay, Bomet and Vihiga counties whereas the controversial Nandi Forest dam will be set up in Nandi South forest.

The Lake Victoria South Water Services Board has also been in the news over claims that it wants to “impose on locals” construction of the Sh5 billion Bonyunyu dam.

Last year, a man was shot dead during protests by residents against construction of the dam.

The residents claimed that adequate public participation on the dam issue had not been done.


The National Irrigation Board (NIB) is in the process of constructing nine dams whose scope of work includes construction of dam, irrigation systems, domestic water supply units and hydropower components.

The signing of the multibillion-shilling deals started in the financial year 2018/2019.

“Except for the Thiba Dam which is already in progress, the others are being financed through the EPCF model,” Engineer Charles Muasya, the head of design and planning of irrigation projects at the National Irrigation Board, said.

The dams being financed under the EPCF model are Radat, Lowaat, Thuci, Rwabura and Thirika, Gogo, Lower Subukia and Kyakivai and Kaiti Ngomano dams.

Thiba dam is expected to be completed in 2021, Gogo dam by 2013 or 2014 while the year 2022 is the completion date for Radat, Lowaat, Thuci, Rwabura and Thirika, Lower Subukia and Kyakivai and Kaiti Ngomano dams.


Thiba Dam, whose construction is estimated to be at 21 percent, is financed by the Japan International Co-operation Agency.

The dam, located in Kirinyaga County, will have a capacity of 15 million cumecs and will cover 25,000 acres of land.

Construction of the dam, valued at Sh8.2 billion, started in March last year and is set to end in March 2021.

In Turkana County, the China Water and Electric Group Corp (CWE) was awarded a tender worth Sh18 billion for construction of Lowaaat dam that is set to expand the Lokubai and Delare Irrigation schemes by 25,000 acres.

Controversially, last week, the government cancelled the tender for the construction of the Sh200 billion worth High Grand Falls dam.

Although the London-based GBM Engineering Consortium was the sole company to qualify for the tender, NIB officials said the company failed to meet its technical evaluation criteria.

On the other hand, GBM Engineering Consortium accuses NIB officials of having vested interests in the award of the tender.