Editorials

Consider taxpayer, future in the JKIA contract talks

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Terminal 1A at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • It is expected that the talks will see the taxpayer lose hundreds of millions or billions of shillings.
  • Catic already got some Sh4 billion as down payment that the government has always insisted should be refunded since no work had been done.
  • Projects of this nature are complex.

Kenya is preparing for compensation negotiations with a Chinese company whose contract to build a terminal at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was stopped after groundbreaking.

It is expected that the talks will see the taxpayer lose hundreds of millions or billions of shillings.

China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Corporation (Catic) is asking the government for Sh22 billion in compensation for the works that were halted in March 206 after spending Sh75 million on groundbreaking.

Catic already got some Sh4 billion as down payment that the government has always insisted should be refunded since no work had been done.

Projects of this nature are complex.

Their execution requires and involves a web of negotiations and experts since missteps usually come with a heavy bills for the taxpayer even if they are already carrying a big load like is the case in Kenya.

Granted, negotiations would be the next step after years of the government playing hardball while the contractor was most probably relying on water-tight legal documents on entering and exiting such a deal. So, taking Kenya to court, consequently, could prove more expensive compared to the talks.

We urge the team constituted to represent Kenya in the case to prioritise the interest of the taxpayers and avoid any settlement that would add to their burden.

But more importantly, based on the compensation the contractor is asking for, Kenya ought to go back to the drawing board and trace its steps to this ugly situation.

How did Kenya end up with such a huge bill in the first place? While contracts may have a template for clauses, the country must reassess its pool of negotiators and fix any gaps that saw the project stall just when the ground had been broken.

It is this web of issues and interests, including political machinations, that agencies like the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) should take into account guided by public interest.

This is a bad situation already, and the negotations team must not make it worse for the struggling taxpayer.