12 July 2018

Kenya: State on the Spot Over Dam Payment Claims

The government has denied knowledge of attempts to coerce victims of the May 9, 2018 Patel dam tragedy to sign an indemnity taking away liability over the accident from the owner of the dam before they are compensated.

Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Interior Patrick ole Ntutu said the ministry was not aware of the compensation process and neither had it issued such instructions to any of its officers in Nakuru.

"I am hearing this from you," Mr Ntutu told the Senate select committee, which is investigating the circumstances in which the dam collapsed killing 47 people and destroying property worth billions of shillings.

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"I will personally take charge and investigate the veracity of the claims and, if we establish it is true, we shall surely take action."

The CAS was forced to react to concerns raised by the committee which visited the site of the dam on Friday last week. During the visit, the Solai community had told the committee, which is chaired by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr, that the alleged compensation is being carried out by national government officers in Solai under supervision of the County Commissioner.

According to the committee, the victims were paid Sh1 million for a life lost, Sh200,000 for the loss of a semi-permanent structure and Sh1 million for a permanent structure lost. The money is allegedly being paid through the county commissioner's office, who has forced the victims to sign indemnity forms that bar the victims from pursuing further claims.

On Wednesday, Mr Kilonzo Jr said Nakuru county commissioner, Mr Joshua Nkanatha, was facilitating the payout and demanded that he, and all national government officials in Solai, be suspended for proper investigations to take place.

SH5 MILLION

Others the committee wants suspended are the deputy county commissioner in Subukia, the assistant county commissioner in Solai and the area chief out of concerns that they will tamper with investigations.

The indemnity states that the dam owners are not liable for the incident despite them offering to compensate them. The discharge forms would protect the dam owner from any further claims.

"Both the dischargee and dischargor are now mutually agreeable that none of the parties hereto, were responsible for the natural disaster that befell the Milmet Dam and its environs on May 9, 2018," the discharge and indemnity document states.

Last week, Patel Coffee Estates managing director, Mr Perry Kansagara, and the general manager, Mr Vinoj Kumar, and four others were arrested and charged with 48 counts of manslaughter and abuse of office. They were on Monday freed on Sh5 million bond with a surety of similar amount or a cash bail of Sh2.5 million each.

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