Graft claims scuttle Uhuru’s Mombasa fisheries pet project

Liwatoni fisheries complex

Workers at the construction site of the Liwatoni Fisheries Complex in Mombasa County on March 2, 2021.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

The government has terminated the contract for the construction of the Sh1 billion Liwatoni Fisheries Complex in Mombasa, one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s key legacy projects for the Coast region.

The project, which President Kenyatta earlier noted was key to the exploitation of the vast wealth of the blue economy, seeks to upgrade the Liwatoni complex to a full fishing port with cold storage rooms, value addition and export facilities.

Daniel’s Outlets Ltd was awarded the tender for construction of the facility but the government has accused the firm of violating the conditions of the contract, leading to its termination. Two government workers also fought on the site, exacerbating an already tense situation.

Dr Francis Owino, the Principal Secretary in charge of Fisheries and the Blue Economy, accused the contractor of corruption and fraudulent practices and ordered the firm to immediately leave the site.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has also launched investigations into allegations of procurement irregularities in the tender leading to the award of the contract.

Suspend any payments

On April 1, 2021, EACC CEO Mbraka Twalib wrote to Dr Owino informing him of the investigation and requested him to suspend any payments due to the contractor pending the outcome.

“EACC has, pursuant to its constitutional and statutory mandate, commenced investigations into allegations of procurement irregularities in the tender leading to the award of the contract,” Mr Mbarak said in the letter to the PS, which was also copied to Interior CS Fred Matiang’i in his capacity as the chairman of National Development Implementation Committee.

“We advise that any payments related to the contract herein be suspended pending investigations,” added Mr Mbarak.

The commission waded into the matter after two senior officials at the State department of Public Works were involved in a physical confrontation as they fought over control of the project.

Mr Hilary Nyaanga, who is the chief structural engineer at the department, has filed a report with the Kilimani Police station accusing the Works Secretary Alphonce Okwetto of assault.

Until the contract was terminated, Mr Nyaanga was the project implementation manager and was assaulted after attending a meeting in the office of the PS where the project was discussed.

Phase One

In a memo to the PS seen by the Sunday Nation, Mr Nyaanga accuses Mr Okweto of threatening to kill him.

“We came to see you with Okweto on March 2, 2021 at about 2.18pm. We went to his office to further discuss the report we had discussed. At the door he turned back and shouted at me, viciously grabbed and pushed me down. I fell on the desk of his secretary, hitting the lower part of my back on the edge of the table. After I rose up, the Works secretary told me that he was going to kill me,” Mr Nyaanga says in the memo dated March 3.

The President has had a particular interest in the project and wanted it done and delivered before last March.

He has ordered Dr Matiang’i to supervise and ensure that Phase One, which is ongoing, is completed and operational, with fish landings, coolers and processors.

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