Alarm as contractor of collapsed building wins Sh20 billion state housing tender
A local construction firm embroiled in controversy over the collapse of a building in Nandi County that killed one person and injured six others has bagged a lucrative Sh20 billion government housing deal.
Epco Builders Ltd was contracted to deliver 5,360 affordable housing units in Machakos County. The Mavoko project sits on 55 acres. This is part of the Kenya Kwanza administration’s commitment to building 200,000 affordable houses annually for low and middle-income earners.
Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga said the project will be completed in four years.
“The project is being undertaken by a local contractor, who will ensure the transfer of skills through the use of local labour,” said Mr Hinga during the ground-breaking ceremony.
A police report seen by Nation, however, indicates that the contractor is still smarting from the building that collapsed on May 8, 2019, at Kemeloi Polytechnic, a technical and vocational training (Tvet) institute in Nandi County.
Mr Edwin Lubaga, 35, died while being rushed to Kapsabet Level Five Hospital due to serious injuries he sustained after “a beam supporting a building” that was under construction broke, forcing the building to collapse.
The incident, reported by Mr Vitalis Ouma on May 8, 2019, as per the reports, also saw six other people sustain injuries.
The report names the injured as Mr Daniel Kirwa (34), Mr Kenneth Abisa (40), Mr Collins (37), Mr Charles Keter (41), Mr Geoffrey Kibet (39) and Mr Jackson Kizavuli (44). They were rushed to the same hospital, treated and discharged. However, the report does not indicate whether the victims of the collapsed building were workers at the site.
Epco Builders Ltd had been contracted by the State Department of Vocational and Technical Training under the Ministry of Education, to construct a multibillion-shilling structure at Kemeloi Polytechnic.
Following the incident, the company was required to record a statement with the Director Criminal Investigations Officer (DCIO) in charge of Nandi Hills, where the incident occurred, as per the police report.
But, almost four years down the line, it is not clear whether the contractor recorded a statement.
Details of whether the police carried out investigations to ascertain whether poor workmanship or use of substandard materials caused the accident, also remain scanty.
Nandi County Criminal Investigations Officer (CCIO) Douglas Chikanda promised to check the status of the case and report to us whether the matter was investigated and, if concluded, any action taken, but he did not get back to us despite several calls and WhatsApp message reminders. Epco Builders Ltd, as per the details at the Registrar of Companies, was registered almost 46 years ago on November 30, 1977.
As at February 3, 2023, when we did the company search at the Registrar of Companies, it had three directors/shareholders. Mr Meghbai Devji Ramji, a UK citizen, is listed as a shareholder with 14,000 shares.
Mr Mayur Ramji Varsani, a Kenyan, is a director with 10,000 shares and Mr Varsani Ramji Devji, also a Kenyan, is listed as a director with 76,000 shares.
Mr Varsani Ramji Devji, the company’s managing director, chose to respond to our inquiries about the incident through his lawyer, Dr Wilfred Mutubwa.
“The matter occurred several years ago (sic). It was processed by law enforcement agencies concerned and finally settled,” said Dr Mutubwa, who did not divulge the details of how the police settled the matter.
Epco is also building Tvet institutions across the country. Information published on its website indicates that the company is one of the most renowned building and civil engineering firms in the country and is registered in category NCA 1 by the National Construction Authority (NCA).
The website further states that the company has an annual turnover of over Sh5 billion and has the capacity to handle projects worth up to Sh12 billion. It also owns a yard on Mombasa Road near Athi River where heavy equipment and batching plants are installed.