, NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 16 – National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende has directed three House Committees to probe circumstance that led to the cancellation of a Sh56 billion contract for a new airport terminal and runway.
Marende directed the joint committees of Transport, Budget and Finance to submit a report to Parliament within 14 days.
This followed a charged debate between MPs and Transport Minister Amos Kimunya on Thursday, as he tried to convince Parliament that his push to cancel the deal was procedural.
MPs queried Kimunya on his unilateral and controversial decision to cancel the contract, whose procurement had been cleared not only by the Attorney General, but also the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
“The project cost had moved from the estimated maximum of $500 million to $653 million, and no approval had been sought from the board,” Kimunya told MPs.
“So far, there’s no agreement with the contractor and since there are no signed contracts, we do not anticipate the government to incur any loss.”
He insisted that the AG had written another letter with the opinion that the matter be referred to the Public Procurement Oversight Authority for final directions.
MPs charged that the minister’s stubbornness had drawn complaints from President Kibaki’s Office and the Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia.
But Kimunya maintained that the board of the Kenya Airports Authority had met in February this year and resolved that the procurement process be stopped.
MPs Charles Keter (Belgut), John Mbadi (Gwassi), Adan Duale (Dujis), Charles Kilonzo (Yatta), David Ngugi(Kinangop) and Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem) cornered the minister, tabling the opinion of the Attorney General, which warned of heavy payments to Anhui Construction if the contract was terminated.
Keter claimed that Kimunya had packed the board with “seven directors from one region” who sat in July and pushed for the termination of the contract, but the Managing Director of the KAA, Stephen Gichuki, refused to sign the minutes.
The Belgut MP asked Kimunya to declare whether he had links to China Construction Engineering Corporation, and whether he knew a James Gachoka, chairman of the Appeals Board, and whether he’s talked to him concerning this case”.
Kimunya replied: “I’d have no interest in a company owned by the Chinese government. I don’t know them, I have not met them, unless the member has been sent by them to me, then he can give me further details on who they are and what they want. Our relationship with Mwaniki Gachoka is personal and not based on his work at the PPOA board.”
Parliament’s Public Investments Committee Chairman Mithika Linturi caused laughter in the House when he pointed out that Kimunya “was always in a circle of controversy.”
He sought to know if Kimunya would meet the bill for damages caused by his action to terminate the airport contract.
Kimunya said that the whole controversy about his decision to cancel the airport contract was because “corruption was fighting back” but MPs sneered.
“I am at the heart of ensuring that we get the best terminal for this country. Because this matter is huge and exhaustive, I’d rather we process this through the Transport Committee, so that Kenyans get to know what’s going on.
“I am committed to ensure that we break ground before the end of this year. We cannot be held at ransom by one contractor,” said Kimunya.
“I am willing to see the process is restarted and a better value than what is being put here. When you speak the truth, you step on so many toes, and corruption has a way of fighting back. This is one case. I will continue fighting back.”
In his directive, Marende said the matter is urgent and touched on the country’s development and standing in the region as an investment hub.