Sh167m classrooms project raises eyebrows

Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga (left) and his Migori counterpart Okoth Obado when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts to answer audit queries in the Auditor General’s report on county spending yesterday. (PHOTO: MOSES OMUSULA/ STANDARD)

Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga has been put to task over the implementation of a Sh167 million Early Childhood Development (ECD) classrooms project.

The governor was yesterday hard pressed to explain to the Senate Public Accounts and Investments Committee why procurement rules were flouted during the implementation of the project.

Auditor General Edward Ouko in his 2013/2014 report questioned why the county government did not put out a tender advertisement for the  project.

The Senate watchdog also questioned why the administration did not constitute a technical and financial evaluation committee and an inspection and acceptance committee.

The Auditor General had further established that a contractor, who landed a Sh2.959 million tender to construct an ECD block at Nguya Primary School, did not appear as a bidder in the tender opening minutes.

Paid in advance

Other two contractors who clinched tenders to construct classrooms for ECD learners at Awelo and Sihayi Primary Schools, the Auditor General noted, were paid a sum of Sh2.9 million in advance.

But Governor Rasanga yesterday defended himself from any wrongdoing, saying some of the procurement flaws occurred during his first year in office, “when there were no proper structures in place”.

“It should be noted that the period of audit was during the formative stages of the county government operations. Consequently, relevant structures for project management were yet to be constituted,” he said.

The governor maintained that all the 68 ECD classrooms under the projects did not cost more than Sh2.5 million and, therefore, fell under the threshold of local tender, and did not require national advertising, as per the law.

“The contractor who did work at Nguya Primary School was a bidder. The other two contractors were paid Sh1.2 million and Sh1.6 million in advance. But the payments were made against actual interim payments based on work completed at that time,” said Mr Rasanga.

Senators Boni Khalwale (Kakamega) and Martha Wangari (nominated), took issue with the cost of the classrooms, noting that spending over Sh2 million on each classroom block was too exorbitant.

“MPs from your region spend much less money to construct classrooms using cash from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) kitty. Why is there a huge disparity in pricing?” posed Dr Khalwale.

“The designs are different and cannot be compared with what the MPs have constructed in their constituencies. The ECD blocks constructed by the county government have three classrooms, an office and store,” he explained.

Committee chairman Senator Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu) directed the governor to to furnish his team with the Bill of Quantities (BOQ) for each of the ECD projects in two days to enable members to ascertain whether the project provided value for money.

“The BOQs are available. One can’t invite tenders without them. But everyone with eyes can see that the three classrooms, office and a store are commensurate with the cash tendered,” explained a visibly agitated Rasanga.

The response by the county boss prompted an interjection by Senator John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot), who sought to allay his fears that he was being accused of any wrongdoing.

“We are not at war Mr Rasanga. You built three classrooms a store and an office in each of the schools. The BOQs are different. Asking you to produce them here doesn’t mean you are being accused. Some of the work may be useful to this committee and may be used for benchmarking elsewhere,” he said.

Past reports by the Auditor General have put governors on the spot over spending. More than three-quarters of all governors, the 2013/14 Auditor General’s report showed, had audit queries to answer.

Most of the queries arose from flawed procurement procedures in tendering for various projects.

Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba, for instance, was early this year put on the spot by the Senate Public Accounts and Investments Committee for allegedly spending over Sh73 million within a month.

The Nyong’o-led committee said there was no proof that the money was spent on any specific project for the county.

Kajiado Governor David Nkedienye’s administration also came under the spotlight with the report having questioned why he had procured legal services worth Sh12 million without competitive bidding.

Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok was, for his part, questioned on acquisition of two tippers worth Sh18 million as well as the purchase of four tractors and other equipment worth Sh26 million without any bidding.