Children use a boat in the flooded Kakola Ombaka village on May 12, 2021.

| Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Kenyans endure floods as two Chinese firms feud over Sh20bn dam tender

A vicious dispute between two Chinese companies has stalled the construction of a Sh20 billion water dam on River Nyando in Kisumu.

The row pits China Gezhouba and China Jiangxi Economic Cooperation that was awarded the tender by the National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (NWHSA) for construction of the dam intended to address perennial flooding in the area.

China Gezhouba bid Sh19.2 billion for the project but was not successful.

It has since moved to the Public Procurement Review Board (PPRB) claiming the tendering process was marred by irregularities.

The firm claims that awarding the tender to its competitor at a higher bid of Sh19.9 billion was irregular and should therefore be nullified.

People displaced 

And as the Chinese firms bicker, 2000 households have been displaced in some parts of Nyando and its environs after homes and schools were submerged.

River Nyando burst its banks following rains that have been pounding the entire Western part of the country in recent days. 

“I can say that the games these companies are playing are delaying us. I have made attempts to save this project which is dear to the people of Kisumu,” Water and Sanitation Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu told the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.

Mr Irungu added the delay in constructing the dam will only make the situation in Nyando dire whenever it rains.

But even as the PS raised concerns about the delay, he told PAC, chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, that the government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the Chinese government to intervene and help resolve the row.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged authorities in China to inform them of the danger of dragging this matter,” Mr Irungu said. He was responding to queries on the ministry’s audited accounts for the 2018/19 financial year.

The project is fully funded by the Kenyan government.

Unlock the deadlock 

Prior to engaging the Chinese authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had contacted the Chinese envoy in Nairobi.

Under the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, it’s incumbent upon the procuring entity- in this case NWHSA- to award the tender to any lowest bidder provided that they have demonstrated competence in technical and financial evaluations.

But even as the controversy rages, Mr Irungu told the watchdog committee that his ministry has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to unlock the deadlock given the importance of the project.

Kandaria Secondary School in Nyando, Kisumu on October 12, 2020.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

But PAC members Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and Dr Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren) accused the two Chinese firms of derailing a project that is fully funded by Kenyan taxpayers.

“These Chinese can’t come and derail our projects. We have had enough of them. We have one month to end of the current financial year,” Dr Simiyu said.

Mr Duale wondered why the two foreign companies had been allowed to fight at the expense of taxpayers.

“It’s a pity that when they fight and stall the project, it's the people of Kenya who suffer. Look at the flooding in Nyando. Had this project commenced, we would have hope of ending the perennial flooding,” Mr Duale said.

The PS told MPs that four companies bid for the multibillion shilling project with two “extremely weak” to execute the project of such magnitude.

The fight between the two foreign companies has also exposed the Ministry of Water and Sanitation that is now on the verge of losing Sh1.5 billion that had been earmarked for the water dam project in the current financial year.

The Public Finance Management (PFM) Act provides that any allocation that has not been spent be surrendered back to the National Treasury by May for fresh budgeting.  

China Gezhouba is building a Sh82.21 billion Thwake dam project in Makueni and Kitui Counties in Lower Eastern Kenya.


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