News

Collapsed Sigiri bridge engineers off the hook

sigiri

Resident cross River Nzoia using a boat on June 27, 2017 after Sigiri Bridge in Budalangi Collapsed. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • The two engineers, Godfrey Okumu and Oliver Wanyama, moved to the Appellate Court after the High Court dismissed their case against the board.
  • The High Court had allowed the April 2018 decision of the board to suspend the two engineers for two years over professional misconduct.
  • The tender for the construction of the bridge, which spans River Nzoia’s banks and links Bunyala South and North, was awarded to China Overseas Engineering Group Co. Limited (COVEC) in 2014 by the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeeRA).

The Court of Appeal has overturned decision of the High Court ordering the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) to suspend licences of two engineers for professional misconduct over the collapse of the Sh1.2 billion Sigiri bridge in Western Kenya three years ago.

The two engineers, Godfrey Okumu and Oliver Wanyama, moved to the Appellate Court after the High Court dismissed their case against the board.

he High Court had allowed the April 2018 decision of the board to suspend the two engineers for two years over professional misconduct.

The tender for the construction of the bridge, which spans River Nzoia’s banks and links Bunyala South and North, was awarded to China Overseas Engineering Group Co. Limited (COVEC) in 2014 by the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeeRA).

The Chinese company later sub-contracted two local companies to provide design engineering services for the project. Scope of services by the local companies was a ‘Project Manager’ and ‘Structural Engineer’.

The companies were BAC Engineering and Architecture Limited (BAC) whose director is Mr Okumu. The firm formed an association with Interphase Consultants Limited (Interphase) fronted by Mr Wanyama.

Roles of the local companies included co-ordinating all the consulting services and the consulting team, directing responsibility for the day to day consulting activities and discussing with the employer and its team on the requirements for field survey, planning and design.

Other roles included overall responsibility in the field survey, planning and design of the project as well as responsibility and presentation of the reports to the employer.

In regard to structural engineer, roles included clarifying design standard/codes, to carry out basic and detailed design of bridge works and to prepare the technical specifications and bills of quantities for structural works. Another role was to prepare basic and detailed design reports and drawings.

Unfortunately, on the morning of June 26, 2017, the bridge collapsed, injuring a number of masons who were working on it at the time.

Following the accident, the Engineers Board of Kenya commissioned an ad hoc inquiry committee, to conduct investigations.

The committee in its report said the accident was caused primarily by “....the wrong sequencing of the concreting of the bridge deck resulting in unbalanced forces that caused instability and failure of sections of the bridge”.

Further, “The wrong sequencing was as a result of failure to follow standard design requirements and adhere to standard construction procedures.”

On the basis of the findings, the board addressed letters to the two engineers requiring them to appear before the committee to answer to the charges of professional misconduct and breach of professional obligations in violation of the Engineers Act and the Code of Ethics Conduct, 2016.

They were also charged with, respectively, operating BAC and Interphase Ltd without prior registration by the Board.

However, they denied the allegations insisting that BAC and Interphase carried out the detailed design strictly in accordance with the Building Code, and the instructions issued by COVEC.

Though the Court of Appeal overturned the suspension of the two engineers, it upheld the decision to remove them from the register for failing to register with the Board their companies, which were involved in construction of the bridge.