Kenya: Power Firm Accused of Ignoring Court Orders in Poles Row

A storm is brewing at the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC) after a petitioner accused the company of ignoring a court order stopping it from using substandard poles.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations is looking into the matter.

SH800 MILLION

Inter Tropical Timber Trading Company went to court early this year seeking orders to have REREC stopped from returning substandard poles to suppliers for retreatment.

According to Inter Tropical Timber Trading Company, the poles - which cost Sh800 million - were not properly treated and can only last just two years instead of the recommended 30.

On May 8, the High Court issued orders directing REREC not to return the poles to the 18 suppliers.

On June 4, the High Court set aside its orders, effectively allowing REREC to return the poles to the suppliers, but the petitioner went to court seeking to have the earlier directive reinstated.

The court order was given on July 16.

Inter Tropical Timber now accuses REREC of ignoring the order by continuing to release the 51,238 poles to the suppliers.

In a letter to the DCI, Inter Tropical Timber Trading through Kinyua Njagi and Company advocates accuses REREC of engaging in a "well-calculated move aimed at covering the illegal and fraudulent activities between the suppliers and Rural Electrification Authority management, which has paid them for supplying the poles," the July 18 letter says.

"REREC is still issuing the poles to contractors for use in electricity connectivity across the country as per the delivery notes and store requisitions to M/s Collabo Syldan Ltd, Gibtom Africa, Ekubo Contractors Ltd and Jimak Suppliers and Construction Ltd despite the order."

NEW ORDER

And in a June 26 letter to the DCI, the law firm says: "Kindly note that the reason the court issued orders for the preservation of the substandard poles was to enable your institution to investigate the circumstances under which REREC accepted and paid for the poles, which would lead to a loss of tax payer's funds."

"Our instructions are therefore to request your office to investigate the circumstances under which REREC is...using substandard poles for electricity connectivity despite the same being exhibits for possible criminal investigations."

In an application at the High Court on Friday, REREC denied going against the directive.

The agency also asked the court to set aside the orders it issued on July 17.

The parastatal said between May 8 when the order was lifted and July 16 when it was reinstated, all the 51,238 poles were returned to the suppliers for treatment.

It added that the new order had already been overtaken by events as the poles had been returned to the suppliers.

"In the performance of its statutory mandate, REREC contracted third party firms to implement the electrification programmes within the republic. The contractors are already on the ground fixing power lines," it told the court.

IRREPARABLE LOSSES

"The company has made substantial financial investments in procuring the services of the third party contractors and will suffer irreparable losses if the orders are not granted."

The company told the court that it now has quality wooden poles.

In the petition filed in May, Inter Tropical Timber Trading Company through its director Geoffrey Nganga Kariuki asked the court to stop REREC from returning the poles to the suppliers.

Mr Kariuki said the poles breached the Kenya Bureau of Standards specifications about Moisture content and other crucial guidelines.

The poles were supplied to REREC stores in Makuyu, Mariakani and Awasi.

"REREC has publicly admitted that the substandard poles are being held at its stores and that the same was subject of its board deliberations during its retreat in Mombasa. Holding substandard poles amounts to admission of criminality by REREC officers who received the deliveries, tested and accepted them as being standard and authorised illegal and unlawful payments," Mr Kariuki said.

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