Construction of a new flyover exchange on Thika Highway.A China State Construction and Engineering Corporation that lost a Sh2.1 billion contract for the stalled construction of the Thika–Mangumu road has been controversially awarded two more tenders worth 10 times the lost tender.


Chinese firm on the spot over ‘dubious’ deals

A Chinese company that lost a Sh2.1 billion contract for the stalled construction of the Thika–Mangumu road due to lack of capacity has been controversially awarded two more tenders worth 10 times the lost tender, sparking concern from a regulator over possible loss of taxpayers money.

The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) has told the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) and China State Construction and Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) that they have a case to answer as the Chinese contractor risks debarment over poor performance.

This is after activists filed a case at PPRA seeking to have CSCEC banned from getting tenders in Kenya, accusing it of getting preferential treatment from State procurement officials despite evidence of performing shoddy work.

“PPRA debarment committee during a sitting on January 25 considered a request for debarment by Benedict Kabugi against China State Construction and Engineering Corporation dated January 5, 2022,” says orders issued by PPRA to CSCEC dated January 25.

“Upon consideration of the request for debarment in accordance with regulation 22(5) of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations, the committee established that there is a prima facie case for debarment. The grounds for debarment is poor performance of the contract,” said PPRA.

30-month contract period

CSCEC was in 2019 awarded Sh2.1 billion tender to perform repair works on a 67.7-kilometre road linking Thika town and Mangumu along the Nairobi– Nakuru Highway.

The repair of the road, according to Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia at the time, was to include re-tarmacking and expansion of the width of the carriageway.

“The 67.7-kilometre Thika–Mang’u–Magumu (flyover) road which traverses Kiambu and Nyandarua counties is one of the ring roads that will de-congest the Nairobi Metropolitan Area by linking Thika Road to the Nairobi–Nakuru highway,” said the CS.

Works finally began on August 31, 2019 with a 30-month contract period that would have ended on December 31 last year. Being one of the biggest construction companies in the world, it was expected that CSCEC would not fall into any construction difficulties.

After all, the company was no stranger to Kenyan government contracts. It had already been contracted to refurbish the 45 kilometres Kitale-Endebess-Suam highway. It had also managed to complete the construction of 260 housing units in Ngara, Nairobi, through the affordable housing programme. It had also been contracted to build what was supposed to be Africa’s tallest building by a private developer in Upper Hill, Nairobi, before the project ran into financial and legal headwinds.

Vanci Engineering

During this time, the company was on a tender winning streak. It was contracted to construct a one-stop border post between Kenya and Uganda. However, it subcontracted the job to Vanci Engineering .

On June 16 last year, KeNHA issued what was a last warning to CSCEC to finish the project after several warnings.

Among the issues raised by KeNHA at that time was a slow progress in works, which had achieved a completion rate of just 14 per cent despite the firm having spent two years on the site.

Fed up with the lies by the contractor, KeNHA pulled the plug on the contract.

What is baffling is that in November, KeNHA terminated another contract with the same company for fraudulent acts and poor performance and then proceeded to issue it with two more contracts, whose price is 10 times the size of the cancelled contracts, after just a month.

The first contract is for the upgrading of 77 kilometres Isiolo–Kulamawe road. The second one is the upgrading of the Kulamawe– Mogadashe –Garbatulla road, whose total length is 128km. Both projects will include an installation of a fiber optic cable at a total cost of about Sh20 billion.