Residents of Kipsaiya in Elgeyo-Marakwet County demonstrate against plans to construct Arror Dam, on March 6, 2019. 

| Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Genesis of ongoing Kimwarer, Arror dam projects case

What you need to know:

  • Technical committee found the 25.9 billion Arror project was technically viable but overpriced.
  • The cancellation of the project did not augur well for some Rift Valley politicians.

In September 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta 'surprised' a technical committee established to assess the viability of the Arror-Kimwarer dam when he overruled its recommendations and cancelled the project that had already gobbled up Sh22 billion of its contractual sum of Sh63 billion.

The technical team chaired by Infrastructure Principal Secretary Paul Maringa had been tasked to assess the feasibility of the two dam projects whose construction had been marred by controversy following allegations that Treasury and Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) officials had flouted procurement rules and abused their oath of office to ensure the lucrative contract went to Italian contractor CMC di Ravena.

Two months later, Prof Maringa told the Senate committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights that the committee had recommended a re-evaluation of the Kimwarer project given that the feasibility study done in 1991 showed the dam lies in a geological fault line.

The committee also found the 25.9 billion Arror project was technically viable but overpriced.

The cancellation of the project did not augur well for some Rift Valley politicians, including Deputy President William Ruto and Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who strongly defended the contract awarded to CMC di Ravena.

A public spat between politicians followed but it failed to stop the probe that claimed the careers of former Treasury CS Henry Rotich and his PS Kariuki Thugge.

Due process

Deputy President William Ruto maintained that due process had been followed in awarding the tender and declaring the costs of the projects.

“We are constructing Thiba dam in Kirinyaga, Kariminu, Thwake, Arror and Kimwarer dams whose processes are competent since it’s our duty as government to protect public resources and get value for every shilling we are spending.”

“Where are those saying that Sh21 billion has been lost in the Arror-Kimwarer dam getting the information from? The payments that has been made is Sh7 billion, which is not lost because we have a bank performance guarantee and if the contractor does not deliver, we shall cash the guarantee and public resources will be protected,” said the Deputy President.

Public Service and Gender Chief Administrative Secretary Beatrice Elachi, then a nominated senator, said she and her colleagues flew over the thick forests of Arror and Kimwarer  and wondered whether the construction of the two dams would further encroach on the country’s dwindling forest cover.

“We flew over the dense, thick forests of Arror and Kimwarer and from high above, we could see the mighty Arror River roaring down the plains but some of us wondered aloud how the dam was ever going to be constructed. The landscape is not only very steep, it would also mean a huge chunk of the gazetted forest would have to be cleared off,” she said.

For his part, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga pushed for speedy conclusion of the dams’ probe that took about two years to complete and blamed Rift Valley leaders for inflating the initial cost of the dam for their own benefit.

National projects

“Kimwarer and Arror dams were planned for during Mwai Kibaki’s government and the contract awarded to an Iranian company, which estimated the entire cost at Sh5 billion, now the figure has escalated to sh63 billion,” said Mr Odinga.

Mr Murkomen dismissed the probe as a farce.

“I have looked at the charge sheets and I can tell you that everything is a charade,” said Mr Murkomen.

“The technical committee did not consult anyone and didn’t carry out public participation. Elgeyo-Marakwet County has been denied its rightful share of national projects in a deliberate act of discrimination. They would rather default and pay contractors billions of money for breach of contract than see our people benefit,” tweeted the Senator.

Their claims were, however, silenced by Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji’s revelations that investigations had established that the contract signed between KVDA and CMD Ravenna stated that Kimwarer Dam would cost approximately USD204,020,149.02 (Sh20 billion) and Arror an approximated USD252,188,732.27 (sh25 billion), all totaling to approximately Sh46 billion.

Mr Haji added that the National Treasury had negotiated a commercial facility, increasing the amount to Sh63 billion, Sh17 billion more. The case is ongoing in court.