Exclusive: Moses Kuria, KRA chairman bagged millions in ghost stadium projects

State of Stadiums

A graphic showing the Stadium millionaires.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • During the campaigns, Ruto presented nine stadium designs he said would be completed within months of re-election.
  • After re-election, cracks in the Jubilee government emerged but ground was broken for construction of several stadiums.
  • Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto won back their seats in a repeat presidential election that their rivals, Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, sat out.

In June 2017, then President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, Dr William Ruto (current President) were at the height of their campaigns for a second term in office.

At the time, talk was rife of a looming end to a partnership that had, for five years, looked like a brotherhood made in heaven.

But the two shook off the rumours during the launch of the Jubilee Party manifesto at the Moi International Sports Stadium in Kasarani, Nairobi, and made massive promises to millions of young Kenyans in the sports sector, which had suffered neglect by successive regimes.

In one of the most exciting moments of the campaign trail, Dr Ruto presented nine stadium designs he promised would be completed within months of re-election.

After re-election, cracks in the Jubilee government emerged but ground was broken for construction of several stadiums. Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto won back their seats in a repeat presidential election that their rivals, Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, sat out.

Just months into their second term, the fallout rumours and predictions came to pass. But amid their differences, Dr Ruto went around the country launching construction of the stadiums that the Jubilee administration had promised to deliver.

The friends-turned-foes finished their five-year terms. But just like their political union, construction of the stadiums stalled. Dr Ruto is now in power after a tense and close race against Mr Odinga, whom Mr Kenyatta backed in the August 9, 2022 presidential election.

Wote Stadium

Sections of the upcoming Wote Stadium in Makueni County as at April 3, 2023. The Sh 350 million project, which was expected to be completed in 2020, has stalled.

Photo credit: Pius Maundu | Nation Media Group

Nearly eight months into office, many of the stadiums are now on the brink of becoming white elephants.

Some of the individuals behind the firms hired to build the stadiums now sit in powerful offices lathered with huge financial perks, with the projects seemingly just a faded memory in their minds.

A few of the stadiums have been turned into grazing fields. On January 5, 2017, Smith & Gold Productions Ltd was handed the site on which Karatu Stadium in Gatundu South constituency, Kiambu County, would be built.

The firm had bagged a tender to construct a world class facility for Sh259,604,780. Records from the Business Registration Service (BRS) indicate that the firm, incorporated on July 16, 2013, is jointly owned by Emerging Capital Holdings Ltd (700 shares) and Aloise Kinyanjui Kuria (300 shares).

Emerging Capital Holdings Ltd is fully owned by Mr Moses Kiarie Kuria, the Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industry. Aloise Kinyanjui Kuria is the CS’s brother.
While there is no evidence that the firm bagged the tender irregularly, it is unusual for tenders involving such amounts of money to be handed to inexperienced contractors.

There is, however, a potential conflict of interest on Mr Kuria’s part as Smith & Gold bagged the tender when he was still serving as the Gatundu South Member of Parliament.

Frowned upon

It is not expressly illegal for public officers to do business with the government, but the practice is frowned upon on account of perceptions that they may use their influence to bag contracts. It is also a red flag that several governance experts across the world have discouraged.

Past attempts to enact laws barring public officers from government contracts have not borne fruit, including a 2017 order by former President Kenyatta directing the Attorney-General to draft a Parliamentary Bill to curb the practice.

President Ruto’s Cabinet has approved the Conflict-of-Interest Bill, 2023, to introduce “strong legal safeguards against real, apparent, or potential conflict between the private interests of public servants on one hand and the public interest and their official duties on the other.”

Smith & Gold Productions Ltd had no previous record of building stadiums within specifications drawn by Sports Kenya, a department of the Ministry of Sports.

After taking over the site, earth movers and other heavy machines roared in the usually silent ground surrounded by tea plantations on gently rolling hills. The quiet centre was about to be a sports hub, or so locals thought.

Approximately 40 per cent of the funds had been released to Smith & Gold, but only 20 per cent of work was done. In 2020, the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Sports, Culture and Tourism noted that funds had dried up from the government side, but Smith & Gold had not done work equivalent to the Sh102 million it had already been released.

Sports Kenya and Smith & Gold signed a return-to-work framework document on May 12, 2020, which was revised to December 31, 2020. Interestingly, the return-to-work framework was signed just months after Mr Kuria publicly accused President Kenyatta of failing to initiate development projects in Central Kenya, in what was one of the first signs of a fallout between the two former political allies.

When we contacted him over the slow progress and possibility of inflated completion status of the facility as per a parliamentary report, Mr Kuria referred to the queries as “idiotic”.

“Stop this idiotic witch-hunt,” he responded in a text message.

The committee also found that Smith & Gold had not factored in a drainage system for the facility.

As downpours are usually plentiful in Karatu, this means that the stadium at the bottom of a hill risks becoming a very expensive swamp in the rainy seasons.
When Nation visited the stadium on Monday, it was deserted. There was not a single soul in sight, not even guards to protect building material.

“I worked here when the construction started. Even before it stopped, we were not being paid. Sometimes we would only get Sh100 for lunch each day and that was it. Since 2020, construction has been on and off. Most of the time there are only three people inside,” Eric, a casual labourer who worked at the stadium said.

The perimeter fence, the only aspect of the project that was near completion, has now suffered some damage. A section of the fence directly opposite the Karatu Police Station seems to have collapsed, leaving a gaping hole that could provide easy access to thieves looking for “free” building materials like gravel.

For Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Board chairperson Anthony Mwaura, his Toddy Civil Engineering had done several construction projects both in the public and private sectors since being incorporated on May 13, 2008.

The firm won a tender to put up Kirubia Stadium in Chuka, Tharaka Nithi County, for Sh274,208,855. Mr Mwaura owns 45,000 shares in the company, while his wife Rose Njeri Ng’ang’a has 5,000 shares. The script is virtually the same as that in Gatundu South. After funds dried up, a return-to-work formula was signed in 2020.

By this time, the firm had received Sh159 million and done approximately 70 per cent of the work.

Insufficient land

Strangely, it was only midway through construction that MPs discovered that land allocated to the project was not enough to encompass all sports disciplines as hoped by government.

There was also insufficient land for expansion in future, shortfalls that should have been spotted while conducting feasibility studies and before award of tenders for construction.

But Toddy Civil Engineering insists it has finished the works it was to do under the Sh274 million contract.

“For the five years [I have worked on the stadium], I have never been paid. But I am the only one who has completed [the works under the contract],” Mr Mwaura said.

Other contractors on site are yet to finish their bit, Mr Mwaura added.

In Wote, Makueni County, another set of politicians was contracted to put up a stadium for Sh299,309,554. Taphes & Nitram Enterprises was also to complete the project in eight months.

BRS records show that Josphat Mwanzia Kasyoka owns 900 shares in the company. Mr Kasyoka unsuccessfully vied for the Kyeleni Ward Representative seat in the 2022 General Election as Grace Bahati won the seat by a landslide.

Christopher Kasyoka Mwanzia owns 100 shares.

While the records seen by Nation do not show former MCA Mark Muendo in the ownership structure, he has in the past given media interviews in his capacity as a director of Taphes & Nitram Enterprises.

Mr Muendo in a past interview with Nation castigated the project consultant, Mutiso Menezes International, for being slow in approving design changes as well as Sports Kenya for slow release of funds.

In February, 2021 then Sports CS Amina Mohamed fired Taphes & Nitram. She stated that the ministry did not believe in the firm’s capacity to deliver the project.

Just like Mr Kuria’s firm, Taphes & Nitram had received nearly 40 per cent of the contract sum but only done approximately 20 per cent of the work. And just like Mr Kuria’s firm, there was no evidence to show that Taphes & Nitram had experience in stadium construction.

The National Assembly committee found that Sports Kenya may have approved payment for incomplete work.

“It was the sub-committee’s opinion that the funds have been mismanaged. Sports Kenya could have carried out due diligence whenever certificates were presented to them for payment before releasing or making payments to the contractor and the consultant.”

“It is important to carry out an audit on the payments that have been made vis-à-vis work done to ascertain the value for money,” the committee said in its report three years ago.

No action has been taken to recover any funds that may have been mismanaged by any of the contractors.

Possible collusion

In Marsabit County, there was hope that a new stadium would promote sports and revenue diversification in the country’s second biggest devolved unit.

Sports Kenya hired Benisa Construction Ltd for the project for Sh295,236,215.
At the time of the National Assembly report, the firm had received Sh125 million, or 42 per cent of the contract sum. While Sports Kenya claimed that 45 per cent of the work had been done, the committee that visited the site begged to differ.

The committee held a similar opinion on most of the other stadium projects, an indication of possible collusion between Sports Kenya officials and private firms to inflate completion rates, in an attempt to fast-track payment for work not done.

Benisa Construction Ltd is owned by Benjamin Kubai Macharia (500 shares), his wife Isabella Wairimu Kubai (250 shares) and son Jadiel Macharia Kubai (250 shares). The company was incorporated on June 17, 2009.

It has bagged a number of projects at both national and county government level. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) in 2019 looked into Benisa and several other contractors over the stalled stadium projects across the country.

But the company honoured its return-to-work agreement and is the only contractor that finished its work under the construction contract signed.

Benisa handed over the site back to Sports Kenya. A section of the stadium that was the county government’s responsibility is, however, yet to be completed. Its future is now uncertain after that section was condemned over quality concerns.

Mr Macharia told Nation the government still owes it money but did not reveal how much is owed. But, at the time the company returned to work in 2020, works valued at Sh169 million were due under the contract.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, Funan Construction was hired to put up the Kamariny Stadium for Sh287,837,775. The company was founded by Daniel Gacheru Ndiang’ui, who died in 2015. He owned 900 shares at the time. His sons Peter Wambugu Gacheru, Joel Kaburi Gacheru and Daniel Ndiang’ui Gacheru each own 30 shares in Funan Construction.

David and his sister Fiona Wacuka Gacheru were in 2017 given authority to manage their father’s estate pending completion of the succession process.

The company had received Sh81 million, or 28 per cent of the contract sum. Sports Kenya reported work done to be at 30 per cent, but the National Assembly committee held that the completion status may have been exaggerated.

In President Ruto’s Uasin Gishu backyard, Weihai International Economic & Technical Cooperative Company Ltd (WIETC) was tasked with putting up the Kipchoge Keino Stadium for Sh304,204,413.

The Chinese government-owned company had received Sh165 million, or 54 per cent of the contract sum.

WIETC was the only company hired to put up stadiums that rejected the return-to-work framework deal and instead issued Sports Kenya with a notice of contract termination.

The company cited breach of contract, through delay in funds disbursement, and oppressive terms in the return-to-work framework.

Interestingly, the Chinese firm was the only one in the pool of stadium contractors that was not accused of inflating its completion status.

WIETC had done approximately 60 per cent of the works despite receiving 54 per cent of the contract sum. After the Chinese firm’s exit, Golbo Construction Ltd won a tender to complete the works.

Golbo Construction is expected to fiish the project whose total cost was Sh138 million, but it stalled again.