Billions at stake after Uhuru stops Kimwarer

A stream that drains into Arror River, Elgeyo Marakwet.
A stream that drains into Arror River, Elgeyo Marakwet. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Construction of Kimwarer dam has been shelved and cost of Arror Multipurpose dam cut by half in the latest twist of Kenya’s long running bid to expand acreage under irrigation.

President Uhuru Kenyatta Wednesday ordered immediate cancellation of the Kimwarer Dam project in a move that could see taxpayers lose billions of shillings already paid to contractors.

He also ordered immediate commencement of the implementation of the Arror with the new design components and cost rationalisation plan as developed by a technical team he had appointed earlier to review the controversial projects.

Mr Kenyatta formed the committee chaired by Principal Secretary for Infrastructure Paul Maringa amid claims of irregularities and improprieties that have since claimed the careers of former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge.

Prosecutors alleged that the two officials, together with managers of the Kerio Valley Development Authority and Italian company CMC di Ravenna colluded to inflate the cost of building the two dams to Sh63 billion, up from Sh46 billion.


Feasibility study

A report handed to President Uhuru Kenyatta last evening said no reliable feasibility study was conducted on the Kimwarer project before its construction.

To make a case for the project’s cancellation, the technical team cited a feasibility study carried out on a similar project 28 years ago that reportedly revealed a geological fault across the 800-acre project area, “which could have had negative structural effects on the dam.”

“The Sh22.2 billion Kimwarer Dam was found to have been overpriced and the project is neither technically nor financially viable…therefore, the technical committee recommended to the President that the Kimwarer Dam project be discontinued,” reads a statement from State House.

“The water supply mechanism would involve pumping, an aspect the technical committee found to be unsustainable in terms of operations and maintenance costs.”

Attention shifts to the Sh19 billion said to have been paid in advance in connection with the Kimwarer and Arror dams.

The CMC di Ravenna has denied being part of negotiations that led to the payments — Sh11 billion for debt insurance and Sh4.6 billion as loan interest — dimming recovery prospects.

Prof Maringa’s team has, however, given Arror Multipurpose Dam Project a thumps up saying it is economically viable despite being overpriced.

The committee recommended a cost rationalisation plan “that will ensure the project is implemented cost-effectively without affecting its performance and output”.

“The optimised dam will be technically viable since it will only require about 250 acres of land and cost Sh15.4 billion with power and Sh13.1 billion without power,” says the committee.

The dam, which previously been estimated to cost Sh28.3 billion, will see its height scaled down to 60 metres from the original design height of 96 metres which was found to be unviable.

The committee also established that the project area around proposed Kimwarer Dam is settled and would require compensation of displaced residents.

Public facilities

Both projects in Kerio Valley region were meant to produce electricity and boost irrigated agriculture. The dams were to displace 900 families, schools and shopping amenities, among other public facilities.

According to former Kerio Valley Development Authority managing director David Kimosop, 400 hectares of forest land was to be acquired from Kenya Forest Service in exchange for 570 hectares private land from communities that would have been displaced by the project.

Others who sat in the same committee with Prof Maringa through its 30 days of work were quantity surveyor Julius Matu, Benjamin Mwangi and John Muiruri.