, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 27 – The National Construction Authority, Water Resources Management Authority and the National Environment Management Authority were on Wednesday kicked out of an ad-hoc Senate Committee probing the Solai Dam disaster after they failed to give details of measures they have taken to prevent a repeat tragedy.
The regulatory agencies drew the wrath of Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni) and Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi) after they said they were planning to conduct a forensic audit and comprehensive environmental impact assessment, two months after the dam collapsed killing 47 people and leaving hundreds displaced.
“You people are behaving as if you came from Addis Ababa and didn’t you come from your offices. You have been taking us in circles for the last one hour,” said a visibly frustrated Kilonzo Jnr.
The Senators were incensed by admission of the three agencies that the dam – which is among the largest capacity privately owned dams in the country – did not have an environmental impact assessment test because there was no enabling law when it was constructed in 1980.
“The order you are giving now is for 2018… you have already identified that the 2016 self audit was not adequate. What has been happening from 2016 to 2018 and why wasn’t there an EIA ordered at that time in 2016 when your officers found that there was an inadequate audit done,” Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga posed.
The committee further learnt the NEMA had not acted on residents’ complaints on the safety of the dam which was built on a hill.
“Are you saying there was no inspector to go to Solai Dam between 2016 and after the tragedy? That is the question because this to me appears to be a cover-up of the tragedy,” Kilonzo Jnr said.
“Today is a sad day, because NCA came here and told us, you are on your own, NEMA are here, telling us you are on your own. You are using more of your officers to go to discos to arrest DJs while people are dying because of dams and you can say that you have no capacity?” Senator Sakaja wondered.
Kilonzo Junior adjourned the proceedings after the NEMA team admitted that they had not taken action on the dam owners after it emerged that they were yet to comply with an improvement notice that required them to do a fresh assessment and submit a report by June 7.
NCA acting CEO Maurice Aketch told the ad-hoc team that the audit will unearth what caused the collapse.
Attempts by the NEMA team led by Enforcement and Compliance Director David Ongare to redeem themselves by stating that they will be sending a high-powered enforcement and compliance team from Nairobi to go and crack the whip was quickly dismissed by the Senators.
A preliminary report said the tragedy could have been averted had the owners reinforced an embankment where cracks emerged.
The Kenya Meteorological Department Assistant Director James Muhindi said heavy rains worsened the situation before the tragedy happened.
“We always issue advisories to government agencies but I would say in this case someone between the National Disaster Management Coordination Office and NEMA fell asleep on the job and failed to act on early warning information given to them about impending danger,” Muhindi said.
“Should the officers have acted on the information and taken the necessary action, like the way KENGEN did with the Masinga Dam overflow, then the Solai tragedy could have been avoided.”