Witch hunting or a new era of transparency

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BY CHARITY NGILU

This is a follow up to my press statement on Friday November 5 on the corruption allegations that my former Assistant Minister Honourable Mwangi Kiunjuri laid. I want to inform you that I have since then received new information which I wish to share with you and to shed more light on the genesis of these allegations.

The information I have received is that one of the contractors engaged in the construction of one of the large dams, namely Umaa Dam who is well known to the former Assistant Minister submitted to the consulting engineer three different claims dated the same day September 24, 2009 totaling to a sum of Sh935,883,666.13.

The consultant engineer evaluated the claim and recommended that it should be rejected on the basis that it did not have sufficient justification.

Further in their letter to the MD dated July 20, 2010 the contractor issued a financial appraisal totaling Sh1,476,955,955.79 which showed that this project cannot be completed unless a difference of Sh652,498,835.48 is paid.

The contractor acting jointly with the new chairman of the board and my former Assistant Minister visited the dam site on the August 30, 2010 to inspect the progress of works.

It was also during this site visit that I learned through the chairman and my former Assistant Minister that the contractor was demanding to be paid an additional claim of Sh652,498,835.48 over and above the contract sum in order to complete the project.

How did the Assistant Minister and the chairperson get to know of these additional costs which had not been discussed by the management or even the corporation’s Board? Why did they want these claims paid against the professional advice of the consultant engineer who had already rejected the claims?

Is this why Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri has continued to cast aspersions on the credibility, integrity and professionalism of the consultants supervising these works? Has his intention been to ensure that these outrageous claims are paid through ‘friendly’ consultants after the competent consultants are hounded out?

I have learnt since then immense pressure has been exerted on the Managing Director to reverse the decision and pay these claims from both the chairman and my former Assistant Minister.

Why would a contractor who is seeking his payment not pursue it through the right channels? Why would he copy contractual issues to the chairperson? Further why didn’t the chairperson raise this with his Board?
It is now clear that because of the Managing Director’s refusal to pay this claim the chairman has gone ahead and unilaterally suspended the MD against the wishes of majority of the members of the Board.

The MD was interviewed on August 17, 2010 and appointed immediately by the Minister but until now she has not been given her terms and conditions of service by the chairman of the Board despite the Board having discussed and approved it.

I want to inform Kenyans that I remain vigilant and steadfast in implementing the mandate the Government has given me in the Ministry by protecting and using the resources allocated efficiently so that we have value for money.

I will be sharing more information with the parliamentary committee on Land and Natural Resources when I appear before them on Thursday, November 11, 2010.

(Charity Ngilu is the Minister for Water and Irrigation)

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