Dock workers in court to block Sh1.2trn rail line

Workers finalise the construction of a sample new standard railway line at the Changamwe Railway Station. Photo/Kevin Odit
Workers finalise the construction of a sample new standard railway line at the Changamwe Railway Station. Photo/Kevin Odit 

The construction of the Sh1.2 trillion Mombasa-Malaba standard gauge railway line could stall after the dock workers moved to court to stop the mega project, citing procurement flaws.

The union —which represent workers of Kenya Ports Authority—has joined four MPs in seeking to block the project that will be launched on Thursday morning by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The MPs — Alfred Keter, Peter Kaluma, Suleiman Dori and Simba Arati —and the union claimed the single sourcing of the contractors (China Road and Bridge Corporation) opened a loophole for corruption.

They accused the government of violating the Public Procurement and Disposal Act by ignoring a competitive bidding process and questioned the capacity of China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) to execute the project.

“That the applicant be granted leave to apply for an order of certiorari to quash the decision of the respondent dated 2011 to directly source the contract for the construction of the standard gauge railway from Malaba to Mombasa without adhering to the prerequisite laws and rules of the Public Procurement Act,” reads one of the orders sought by the union.


Justice George Odunga directed the respondents, transport minister and heads of KPA and Kenya Railways to file a response and set its hearing for Thursday morning.

CRBC was awarded the contract in 2011 after signing an MoU, in which the Chinese contractor promised to assist in facilitating a government-to-government deal supported by concessional loans from China Exim Bank.

The Chinese bank agreed to fund 85 per cent of the Sh1.2 trillion rail project.

The deal included an offer to conduct a feasibility study for the government free of charge on the understanding that the contract would be awarded to CRBC without competitive bidding.

Kenya Railways was just about to award the consultancy contract to the Italian firm, Italfer SPA, when it was ordered by the Ministry of Transport to stop.

“There should have been a transparent process which is open to public scrutiny to save taxpayers money. The Sh1.2 trillion budget is way above the requisite international standards that provides for Sh170 million per a kilometre of railway,” the MPs said in Parliament on Wednesday.

“We have learnt that the cost as given by the contractor is $6 million per kilometre as opposed to international standard of $2 million.

Without speculation, we think this is wastage of public funds, another Anglo Leasing in the offing,” said Mr Keter in a joint statement issued at Parliament buildings on Wednesday.

The legislators claimed it will take taxpayers approximately 20 years to pay back the staggering amount.

“In as much as we support this project that will in the long run spur development, we do not support the process of single sourcing the contractor,” said Mr Keter.

Transport and Infrastructure secretary Michael Kamau last week defended the decision, saying CRBC was awarded the tender through an agreement negotiated between China and the Kenya government.

Mr Kamau said the Chinese construction firm had the technical and financial muscle to deliver within the next three years.

On Wednesday, the MPs warned the government against exposing the country by entering into contracts without following the law.