Dam projects suspended over land compensation

Projects worth sh188 billion have been suspended by the National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

The government on Monday suffered a major setback in its bid to build 24 dams across the country after Parliament ordered the projects stopped until due diligence is done on their viability and how land owners will be compensated.

The National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources stopped the projects worth Sh188 billion.

The committee called on the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate how the projects were procured and whether there was due diligence.

The lawmakers want the investigative agencies to focus on projects financed through the Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPCF) model, saying the method was a major scam that would rip off Kenyans.

“All the programmes stand suspended until the people are compensated. The government needs to be serious and do first things first… that is, acquiring land and compensating the owners,” committee chairman Kareke Mbiuki said.

“It is pointless for the government to undertake these projects as EPCF is a complete rip off. I know that we are a poor country and the government should not continue enslaving us with loans,” Mr Mbiuki added.

Mr Mbiuki observed that it is ironical for the government to be in a hurry to pay billions of shillings as advance payment to contractors while it cannot allocate money for land compensation.

The suspended projects include Kamumu, Rupingazi, Thambara, Kithino, Maara, Thingithu, Kahurura, Pesi, Kinja, Wiyumiririe, Karemeno and Londiani. Others are Maragua IV, Bute, Bosto, Gatei, Maragua IV, Keben, Lessos, Isiolo, Ndarugi Two, Mwache, Kiandogoro/Chania, Soin/Koru and Kabasi in Nakuru County.

The MPs said the public was asking many questions on the amount of money spent on the two controversial projects in Elgeyo-Marakwet, which are currently under investigation.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, who was grilled yesterday by DCI officers, confirmed in an advertisement in a local daily that nearly Sh20 billion had been spent on Arror and Kimwarer dams.

Appearing before the committee yesterday, Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui admitted that compensation of land acquired posed a big problem.

He said the process has been infested by cartels. “Land compensation has led to contractors slapping us with fines over delayed work,” Mr Chelugui said.

Meanwhile, Mr Chelugui has warned that cancelling the Italian contractor’s Itare dam deal will be counterproductive.

Despite the contractor, CMC di Ravenna, having filed for bankruptcy, Mr Chelugui told the committee that the country risks losing the Sh40 billion meant for the project if it cancels the contract.

The CS was hard-pressed by the lawmakers to explain whether taxpayers will get value for their money as the contractor is incapable of completing the project.

“We should be worried as a country because the government failed to do due diligence on this Italian firm,” Kisumu Woman Representative Rosa Buyu said.

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