Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) is becoming more certain that unscrupulous engineers infiltrated a Sh48 billion project and fixed a siphoning mechanism in Mlolongo during the construction of its newest Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline.
Acting KPC managing director, Mr Hudson Andambi, said the Mlolongo siphoning site that was discovered in June -- almost 10 months after the pipeline was commissioned -- had all the signs of clever engineering.
"That kind of a tunnel cannot be done by an ordinary person, particularly the point at which one connects the hose pipe to siphon the products," Mr Andambi told journalists at a briefing in Nairobi Tuesday.
"It must have been done by somebody who is quite knowledgeable; an engineer," he added.
The siphoning syndicate was busted by Directorate of Criminal Investigations detectives on June 26.
It was happening inside a plot fenced with iron sheets to look like a construction site. Inside, police found a truck labelled "clean water" being loaded with fuel. The fuel was being drawn from KPC's newest pipeline, also known as Line 5, which was commissioned in August last year.
"I suspect this connection was done during its construction," said Mr Andambi. "When the products are in the pipeline, it's usually under pressure. It's impossible for one to drill the pipeline when the products are flowing."
As a result of the police raid, KPC cancelled its contract with a private security firm that secured its installations between Makindu and Nairobi.
Without specifying which firm it was, Mr Andambi said the contract termination was accompanied by suspension of two "senior-most KPC security staff."
The number of people arrested in connection with the siphoning has reached 10, he added.
Among the arrested is a man who runs petrol stations in Ruiru and Kiambu, the suspected owner of the Mlolongo plot and a casual worker who was pumping fuel from a 'clean water' truck to a petroleum tanker.
"There are staff who have written statements and who have been interrogated by the DCI," said Mr Andambi. "Those found culpable will definitely be punished."
The Mlolongo siphoning might not have been the only fleecing point at the pipeline. The Nation reported last week that detectives had unearthed a tie-in station in Konza that also appeared to be a theft conduit.
On September 24, DCI boss George Kinoti, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and Kenya Revenue Authority director-general James Mburu made an impromptu visit to a questionable site on a fact-finding mission.
It is suspected that the automated valves that should be at the facility were disabled, which means the oil that passed through them could not be measured through computer systems.
Detectives found that the transfer metre was not working and that workers were using the rudimentary tank-dipping method, which is not accurate and can be abused.
Mr Andambi said the visit by the three was part of investigations stemming from the Mlolongo incident.
"The visit by the DCI and the DPP and other investigators is just a continuation of the process. Just to make them understand the configuration of the facilities in that area so they can go further and see if there is unclean business going on in that station," said Mr Andambi.
Asked whether he could quantify the amount of fuel that KPC lost in Mlolongo, the acting MD said they were yet to come up with a figure.
Mr Andambi also addressed the oil spillage in Kiboko, Makueni County.
In yet another indictment of the workmanship of the pipeline that was laid by Lebanese firm Zakhem International Construction, hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel leaked through one of the pipes and by the time it was discovered on March 30, scientists feared the worst.
The Water Resources Authority issued a cautionary notice to locals and people in surrounding regions, urging them to be cautious of the water.
Mr Andambi said KPC will hold talks with the agency to find an amicable solution. "Being a government entity, we will engage each other and amicably be able to arrive at a solution to have the notice lifted," he said.
Investigations by a task force formed to probe the spill were announced on September 20 and, according to KPC, "water bodies did not have petroleum hydrocarbon contamination".
Tests were done between May 10 and July 16 on Kathimani Spring, Kiboko Main Spring and three other locations.
Despite the clean bill of health by the multi-agency taskforce that included the Kiboko Water Resource Users Association, WRA has, however, not lifted its caution.
Mr Andambi said KPC will hold talks with the agency.
"Being a government entity, we will engage each other and amicably be able to arrive at a solution to have the notice lifted," he said.
What is yet to be known is the amount of petroleum still in the ground. After the spill, KPC sucked copious amounts of oil from water bodies in the region.
"We announced during the Senate committee hearing that 551,000 litres had been recovered," Mr Andambi said when asked to state the quantity of oil that spilled.
"So, the process is still going on and we will be giving the final figures because reconciliation must be done as we bring in other products to ensure there is a final figure at the end," he added.