China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), one of the world’s largest infrastructure developers, is facing a bid to stop it from bagging government contracts in Kenya following corruption allegations.
Activists Eric Kithinji and Kahonu Njuguna are seeking High Court orders to have the firm refund all money it has made from projects funded by the taxpayer, and bar the Chinese firm from undertaking any government project.
The two individuals have also asked the court to stop the contractor from proceeding with three road construction projects under the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHa) worth over Sh20 billion.
Mr Kithinji and Mr Njuguna have sued the developer, and enjoined KeNHa as an interested party in the suit.
Neither the firm nor Kenha has responded to the suit.
The Chinese firm has been doing repair works on the 67.7 kilometre Thika-Magumu road since August, 2020 after its Sh2.1 billion bid was declared the best.
But the suit by Mr Kithinji has revealed that KeNHa in November, 2021 terminated the company’s contract over alleged impropriety and delays in completion of the project.
The KeNHa letter cited violation of section 66(2) of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, which prohibits corruption and conflict of interest by government contractors.
Less than two months after terminating the Thika-Magumu road contract, Kenha awarded the developer three tenders to construct roads and lay fibre optic cables in north eastern Kenya.
On January 4, 2022, the company bagged contracts to construct the Isiolo-Kulamawe, Kulamawe-Mogodashe and Garbatulla Spur roads while laying fibre optic cables.
Mr Kithinji and Mr Njuguna argue that under Kenya’s procurement laws, the delays and impropriety cited by KeNHa in the November tender termination notice are grounds to bar a contractor from government deals.
“The petitioners question the above tender award which is 10 times the size and cost of rehabilitating the Thika Magumu road (which had been previously terminated for fraudulent acts and poor performance by the respondent company),” Mr Kithinji and Mr Njuguna say in the petition.
“The petitioners are of the opinion that the respondent (CSCEC) must be debarred by this honourable court from continuing to flout Kenyan laws and directives, and must be debarred from working in Kenya forthwith.”
The contractor has several construction projects from both the public and private sector in Kenya, and is one of the most successful Chinese contractors operating locally.
Aside from several road projects, CSCEC is also performing a contract under the government’s affordable housing plan. The firm completed construction of 260 housing units in Ngara last year, seven months ahead of schedule.
CSCEC was initially contracted to build what would be Africa’s tallest tower in Nairobi’s Upper Hill, before financial and legal headwinds scuttled the project.
The Chinese firm will still have bragging rights for constructing the continent’s tallest building, as it is midway through putting up the Iconic Tower in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital (NAC).