Ngilu and Kiunjuri trade daily barbs

November 9, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – Water Minister Charity Ngilu and her former assistant Mwangi Kiunjuri have now resorted to daily press conferences to trade words on corruption allegations at the Ministry.

The Minister on Tuesday called a news conference to accuse her counterpart of a Sh652 million corruption deal.

She made fresh accusations that the former assistant minister was working in cahoots with one contractor to swindle the Ministry of the money.

She claimed that the contractor had asked for Sh935 million for the construction of a dam in Kitui and 10 months later inflated the cost to Sh1.4 billion.

“It is my conclusion that the honourable Kiunjuri’s intention is to have friendly consultants so that these outrageous claims can be paid. He knows that this cannot happen under my watch and if we had not stopped this, the money would have been paid. It had been happening before,” she said during the morning press briefing.

But Mr Kiunjuri quickly responded by calling a press conference in the afternoon and denied the accusations saying the Minister was panicking.

“The honourable minister has not responded to the issues I have raised (in his first corruption allegations). Instead she has chosen what appears to be diversionary to me,” he said.

Mr Kiunjuri was due to hold another press briefing on Wednesday while the Minister promised to share more information on Thursday about fraudulent dealings involving her former assistant.

In her statement, the Minister alleged that she was not aware that the contractor was demanding to be paid an additional claim of Sh652 million over and above the contract sum of Sh824 million in order to complete the project until it was brought to her attention by the former assistant minister and the chairman of the board of National Water Corporation on August 30.

“I never understood and I still don’t understand how the Assistant Minister and the chairperson arrived at these additional costs which had not been discussed by the management or even the corporation’s board,” she stated.

“I did not understand and I still don’t understand why they wanted these claims paid against the professional advice of the consultant engineer who had already rejected the claims,” the Minister added.

However, Mr Kiunjuri said that he was in possession of an official letter dated August 25 addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry and copied to the Minister on the issue of escalation of prices of the dam which was in response to an earlier letter from the Director of Irrigation dated August 17 this year.

“Does the Minister want Kenyans to believe that she did not receive these letters?” he posed.

Mr Kiunjuri wondered whether the minister was denying knowledge of an appraisal by the dam consultants on August 20 that stated that the escalation figures were Sh313.9 million while the predetermined 15 percent escalation value allowed for the dam was Sh123.6million.

“Is the minister telling us she never received that letter and is she denying that the Ministry never receives monthly appraisals for all the large dams in progress?” he posed.

He accused the Minister of contradicting her statements and insisted that his knowledge of the contractors was only work related.

“She has dropped her guard, she is now fighting aimlessly and I only want to promise the minister that she will receive a knock out,” Mr Kiunjuri said.

Mr Kiunjuri who is now the Public Works Assistant Minister last week presented a dossier to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission which he claimed showed widespread corruption in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.


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