Kenya: New Mitihani House Has Been Under Construction for 35 Years

The spacious compound housing the three caramel-coloured towers with maroon tops is guarded by a lone watchman -- probably an indication of its abandonment and neglect.

There is little activity going on inside despite this being an examination period. And for a not-so-good reason.

If everything had gone according to plan, this would have been the nerve centre of operations of the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec).

Tucked in South C Estate, off Mombasa Road, is New Mitihani House, the proposed headquarters of Knec and, probably, one of the oldest building sites in Kenya.

It has been under construction for the last 35 years and has so far cost the taxpayer more than Sh3 billion and counting, up from the initial budget of Sh248.9 million.

Basic maths reveals that the project's initial cost has skyrocketed 12 times and in reality, the current bill is enough to build 12 such towers for Knec and other government departments.

And to demonstrate just how long this project has taken, plans for the construction of New Mitihani House coincided with the introduction of the 8-4-4 system, currently being phased out, in 1985.

New Mitihani House

It basically means the mega project that has lasted an era did not serve any purpose in the system that saw Knec grapple with staff housing challenges.

But even with that mind-boggling loss and wastage of taxpayers' money, the building is still not ready for occupation.

The contractor is yet to put final touches on the structure's three towers, each with six floors, multiple level basement parking and other external works.

The project mooted in the 1980s was to act as a one-stop shop for Knec operations to boost efficiency and security of examination materials.

"The New Mitihani House is the landmark of the council located along Mombasa Road, South C. The project encompass [sic] high rise secure executive office blocks built in an area renowned for its tranquillity, good natural environment with easy access to social amenities," Knec describes the tower in its brief.

The project, which was commissioned by the government in 1986, has been through eight construction contracts and now Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu says the taxpayer will not get value for money, even as she declares the examinations body technically insolvent.

The Daily Nation's efforts to unmask all the contractors bore no fruit as Knec officials failed to yield to our information requests.

Mitihani House

The project is only 66 per cent complete and Ms Gathungu, in her latest report, has warned that the council risks losing even more money to lawsuits resulting from a cancelled contract and which might further delay completion of the project.

Currently, Knec has its registered office on the sixth floor of the National Housing Corporation House, Aga Khan Walk, Nairobi.

Its more popular abode is Mitihani House along Dennis Pritt Road, Caledonia, just next to State House, and address that is under 24/7 armed guard by General Service Unit officers.

The council also has two other premises-- one along Likoni Road in Industrial Area and another one at Mitihani House in South C.

It is the South C office, on plot LR NO.188/4/451/11/79 near the National Environmental Management Authority headquarters, that has the Auditor-General concerned.

It has, over 35 years, become a bottomless pit that has swallowed billions of shillings, but remains incomplete and, as a result, the 417 Knec staff are scattered in the four locations.

The Archives and Records offices of the council that used to be located at Extelcoms Building were moved to one tower of the new building in 2015. Also moved were the Test Development offices.

New building

Concerns over the new building are raised in the auditor's report for the year ended June 30, 2019, which was tabled in Parliament last month.

"Management has not provided a roadmap on how it intends to complete the project. The delays in completion may lead to cost escalation and stakeholders may not get value for their resources if this project is not completed and put to use," the Auditor-General observes in her report.

The contract for Phase VI of the project, which had been awarded to M/S Ongata Works Ltd, was terminated on July 14, 2018, a termination that will be costly to the council as it attracts interest charged on delayed payments.

Knec has delayed the payment of Sh368,978,231.44 because it disputes the final certificate that was raised by the project manager, the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works.

It is this disputed certificate that continues to attract interest and as at June 20, 2019, the interest accrued stood at Sh44,697,055.

Ongata Works Ltd had been contracted in 2013, initially for 78 weeks but this was extended to July 31, 2017, in respect of internal partitioning and finishes, fittings, building services and external works at Sh1,499,989,252.

Funding challenges

At the time of authoring the auditor's report, only 59 per cent of the work had been completed, with the council paying Sh921,224,251.

The Office of the Auditor General declared Knec technically insolvent as its current liabilities -- Sh3,509,140,068 -- exceed its current assets -- Sh2,486,917,550.

"In the circumstances, the council is technically insolvent and ability to meet its short-term obligations as and when they fall due could not be confirmed," the report reads.

In the report, Knec Acting CEO Mercy Karogo says the council has been receiving amounts far below its budget, which has led to delays in offsetting outstanding bills.

And for the New Mitihani House project, financial allocations seem to have reduced to a trickle, with the Education ministry allocating the project just Sh3.75 million in the 2018/2019 and nothing in the 2019/2020 financial year.

The Knec boss says the funding challenges have affected the implementation of planned activities, projects and programmes.

Knec was established in 1980 following the break-up of the East African Community. It replaced the then East African certifications with the national ones.

More From: Nation

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.