Clear the air over Arror, Kimwarer dams scam


President William Ruto and his Italian counterpart President Sergio Mattarella addressing the media at State house Nairobi on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

President William Ruto's announcement Tuesday that Kenya and Italy will be renegotiating the controversial Sh19.8 billion loan deal for the Arror and Kimwarer dams has set the stage for revival of the projects.

The new negotiations will revolve around withdrawing court cases linked to the cancellation of the projects and reaching a new agreement to repay the €578.2 million (Sh79.2 billion) credit provided by Italian commercial banks.

But they will raise several concerns that the government must address.

The projects remain steeped in scandal and Kenyan taxpayers deserve to know the truth about them.

A State-backed probe in 2019 found that the project costs were inflated and that Kimwarer was technically and financially unfeasible.

How will the billions of shillings reportedly paid for the non-existent dams be recovered and the culprits behind the racket punished? Secondly, there must be proof of value for money for the dams.

The new terms for repaying the loan must offer a fair deal to taxpayers without exposing them to unnecessary risks, especially now that both the citizens and the government are least able to bear these costs.

The fact that billions of shillings were paid, including to an insolvent Italian firm, means that little or no due diligence was carried out before awarding the contracts.

Therefore, given that the same players – Italian firms and the government – are involved in the renegotiations, there must be new rules of engagement to avoid the same pitfalls.

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