NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 21 – The National Assembly’s Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing has cleared the controversial Standard Gauge Railway project, saying the government should expedite its intended contracts with a Chinese company.
The committee chaired by Starehe MP Maina Kamanda urged the government to fast track the signing of the financial agreement with Export and Import (Exim) Bank of China to enable the project commence.
“The government should proceed with the process of implementing the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway project due to the immense benefits that will accrue to the people of Kenya during the construction period and upon completion of the project,” Kamanda told the House after it concluded its probe on the project.
Nyali MP Awiti Bollo, who requested a ministerial statement in November on the technical, financial and human capacity of China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) to construct the multi-billion shilling railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi, however said that the committee had failed to disclose agreements regarding the sub-contracting of the project to Kenyan companies.
The Public Investments Committee (PIC) chaired by Eldas MP Adan Keynan is separately probing the procurement of the tender and has publicly been critical of the manner in which the multi-billion project was awarded.
The committee is looking at whether procurement laws were followed after the Cabinet in 2011 decided to proceed with the project on a government-to-government basis, subject to a financing agreement between Kenya and the Exim Bank of China, and thus Section 6 of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act would not apply.
Section 6 aims to ensure the application of fair, competitive, transparent, non-discriminatory and value for money public in procurement and disposal standards and practices.
PIC has so far questioned several senior government officials, including former Cabinet ministers Chirau Mwakwere and Amos Kimunya who handled the Transport portfolio in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s administration.
The Kamanda-led committee found no evidence of corruption in the project.
“From the submissions by the AG and the Director General of the Public Procurement Oversight Authority, the committee concurs that the procurement process of the project was conducted within the provisions of the law,” read the 44-page report whose final recommendations and findings had been endorsed by all the 29 committee members.
Suba MP John Mbadi had wanted both committees to table their reports at the same time to avoid a potential conflict.
The committee interviewed National Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich, his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge, Transport Secretary Michael Kamau with his Principal Secretary Nduva Muli, Procurement Oversight Authority Director General Maurice Juma, Attorney General Githu Muigai and Kenya Railways acting Managing Director Alfred Matheka.
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter who has been vocal in challenging the varying costing of the SGR project refused to appear before the Transport Committee saying Kamanda would be biased because he had been quoted blaming unnamed businessmen for trying to block the construction after missing out on the tender.
Rotich and Muigai confirmed to the committee that Kenya had not signed any financial agreement yet and that the loan from Exim Bank of China is undergoing internal credit approval after which the documents will be submitted to the National Treasury for perusal before it is forwarded to the AG.
Rotich backed his Transport counterpart who gave the cost of obtaining the Engineering Procurement Contract at Sh327 billion, which includes the commercial contract for civil works and that for the supply and installation of facilities, locomotives and rolling stock.