6 January 2014

Kenya: MPs Jostle Over Who Will Probe Railway Tender

Photo: Wikipedia
The National Assembly Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing has summoned government officials on the controversial Standard Gauge Railway tender (file photo).

Nairobi — Three committees of the National Assembly are jostling over the right to investigate the Standard Gauge Railway tender following questions over the procuring process and cost which jumped from Sh220 billion to Sh1.3 trillion.

The Public Accounts Committee, the Transport Committee and now the Public Investment Committee have all claimed that they are mandated to look into the matter which has generated heat after the tender was single-handedly awarded to a Chinese firm.

House Committee on Transport chairman Maina Kamanda says there is nothing to investigate because his team has already finalised a report on the matter and will be submitting it when the House reconvenes in mid February.

"This matter of the railway never started with the Uhuru regime, you heard (former Prime Minister) Raila Odinga owning it, saying that it has been their baby, so the Uhuru government is just fast-tracking it," said Kamanda.

"Unfortunately it is being politicised, even when you hear people saying they want to investigate this, it is not that they have a problem with it. It is because everybody thinks it has money, they want to eat from it."

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa and his Suba John Mbadi who sit on the Public Investment Committee said they will not halt their investigations because they were prompted by a directive by the House Speaker Justin Muturi before they went on recess.

"When we conduct our probe we will invite everyone who has evidence to come and present it before the committee and then we will look and it and make our recommendations when we submit our report before the House." Wamalwa said.

"The issues that need to be addressed are; is the cost higher than the rates applicable in other countries? Another answer we need to get is in regards to single sourcing (if it is government to government deal, does that require single source) this are fundamental issues that cannot be wished away," Mbadi added.

PIC vice-chairman Kimani Ichung'wah confirmed the committee charged with examining the reports and accounts of public investments will begin sittings on the matter next week on Wednesday.

Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, Transport Secretary Michael Kamau, his Principal Secretary and former Kenya Railways Corporation Managing Director Nduva Muli as well as former Ministers Robinson Githae, Ali Mwakwere and Amos Kimunya are among those summoned to appear.

The tendering concerns are informed by a comparative analysis of the railway projects being undertaken by Kenya and Ethiopia. While the Kenyan one is of inferior technology and covering half the distance Ethiopia is constructing, it was expected to cost the Government $3.804 billion (Sh334.8 billion) compared with $3.9 billion (Sh343.2 billion) used by Ethiopia.

Transport Principal Secretary Nduva Muli had told the House Budget Committee last year that the difference in the cost of the Mombasa-Nairobi high-speed railway compared to the Ethiopian one is brought about by technical differences.

Responding to questions about why the Kenyan project will cost nearly the same as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway yet it is shorter, Muli said the civil engineering works to be undertaken and the needs of the railway pushed up the construction cost.

The railway will also have a 100 per cent grade separation, which means it will not have level-crossings like the Ethiopian one. That means there will be no stopping of traffic to allow trains to pass.

It will have, unlike the Ethiopian one, sensors from Mombasa to Nairobi for high communication and signalling system. In addition, there will be a parallel all weather road, which the PS says, is tantamount to building a new road. Because of the technical aspect of the railway and civil engineering works, the labour cost for the Kenya project will be higher, he says.

Railway Project Manager, Engineer Solomon Ouna, broke down the cost as Sh220 for construction of a total of 606 kilometres. The additional 121 kilometres are railway sidings.

Additional facilities such as rolling stocks, workshops, upgrading of Railways Training Institute for capacity building were also factored into the cost of building the railway and will cost Sh1.147 billion.

He says Sh1.3 trillion budget is the estimated cost of building the railway from Mombasa to Kigali.

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