Economy

State loses millions of shillings in botched school boreholes plan

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A school girl at Kalobeyei Community Primary School in Kakuma, Turkana County washing her feet at a borehole camp at their school on September 18, 2018.FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Rogue contractors took advantage of the absence of the exact water point surveys to sink multiple boreholes, most of which returned dry wells, and made double or triple claims against the government.
  • Irrigation PS Joseph Irungu told Parliament that contractors exploited loopholes that may have led to the loss of public funds in the years before his appointment in 2017/18.
  • Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu flagged 44 stalled projects with a combined contract sum of Sh342,115,980 out of which payments totalling Sh16,722,487 have been made to date.

The State lost millions of shillings to contractors hired to drill boreholes for schools that were undertaken in the absence of hydrological surveys.

Rogue contractors took advantage of the absence of the exact water point surveys to sink multiple boreholes, most of which returned dry wells, and made double or triple claims against the government.

Irrigation PS Joseph Irungu told Parliament that contractors exploited loopholes that may have led to the loss of public funds in the years before his appointment in 2017/18.

“These are the things we are now avoiding. We have not contracted anyone to do boreholes for schools from the year 2019/20 without us conducting a hydrological survey to pinpoint exact underground waterway,” he told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu had raised a query over the award of tenders worth Sh101.4 million for construction of boreholes in various counties in the financial year 2016/17 through open tender for National Water Harvesting and Ground Water Exploitation Programme Water for Schools and Micro Irrigation Projects.

Ms Gathungu flagged 44 stalled projects with a combined contract sum of Sh342,115,980 out of which payments totalling Sh16,722,487 have been made to date. “No explanation has been given on when these projects will be completed and put to use. Management has not levied liquidation damages on the contractors for the delay in completion of these projects,” she said.

Ms Gathungu said in the circumstance, stakeholders may not get value for their resources and public funds may go to waste if the projects are not completed and put to their intended use.

The PS told the committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi that the ministry has since changed its policy of sinking school boreholes.

“We are henceforth conducting hydrological water survey in schools as a ministry before we float the tenders. Previously, the contracts were awarded to bidders to drill boreholes without a survey of the water availability sites,” Mr Irungu said.

He said currently, no contractor will be paid for sinking dry wells in sites not identified by the ministry hydrologists.

“We previously gave contracts and contractors moved to site without available underground water so that they could seek double or triple payments.

“As I speak now, I can’t pay without you getting water. If you drill a borehole on your own, we will not pay you. We have avoided fraud,” Mr Irungu said.

Mr Wandayi, Kasipul Kabondo MP Eve Obara, Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and Ojiambo Oundo (Funyula) wondered how several contractors returned dry boreholes and got paid.

“Hydrogeological survey precedes the award for contracts. Why sink dry holes. Was there not a survey?” Mr Oundo asked.

Mr Duale sought to know if the dry boreholes sunk by the State Department for Water was part of the government Saudi Arabia funded projects.

Mr Irungu appeared before the committee to respond to audit queries on the projects status report as at June 30, 2019.