Sh63 billion dams were marred by fraud from the onset, Residents

From left, Mathew Yego, Josua Rotich and Richard Chepkonga from Elgeyo Marakwet County, display bullets they claimed was used to scare them at Aror area during a past public meeting recently. [Peter Ochieng/Standard]

Detectives yesterday grilled the managing director of a State corporation at the centre of investigations into payment of kickbacks to officials, blamed for stalled construction of two multi-billion-shilling dams.

Mr David Kimosop, the Kerio Valley Development Authority MD, was questioned at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations over the stalled construction of Sh63 billion Arror and Kimwarer dams in Elgeyo Marakwet.

Kimosop was accompanied by KVDA procurement and engineering managers.

KVDA contracted an Italian firm to undertake the projects which have imploded into a scandal. Detectives say billions have been paid for no work done.

The agency’s officials, accompanied by lawyer Katwa Kigen, left after what police termed clarification and additional statements.

Kimosop and the entire KVDA board have been questioned at least four times. Detectives have reportedly demanded to know circumstances under which CMC di Ravena and Itinera of Italy were contracted.

They are also seeking to establish on what basis partial payments were made and whether part of the upfront cash was for kickbacks.

Detectives are likely to demand that Kimosop explains if he knew the recipients of the Sh4 billion kickback, wired back from Italy, and if he was a beneficiary.

Residents are protesting failure to compensate them yet their land was taken for prospecting.

There are also questions over how much the firm was paying for land acquired for the project and whether the price is inflated.

There are reports part of the money paid to the contractor found its way back to the country as kickbacks.

Another issue likely to interest detectives is the CSs involved in the various stages of the projects.

Today, Treasury CS Henry Rotich was expected to appear before the detectives, but he called to say he would be committed.

Detectives said they would probably summon him tomorrow or next week.

“He has called to say he would be held up somewhere. He will come later,” said an officer aware of the probe.

Rotich is accused of paying Sh21 billion so far yet the construction has not started.

He is also accused of writing to the National Land Commission, asking it to deal with the issue of allocation of the land for KVDA to resettle those displaced by the project. The CS was grilled last week.

Release money

He was asked to explain how and why he released the money for the project without designs and bill of quantities. The contractors are said to have used designs for Itare Dam and another one from South Africa as benchmark for the two dams.

Meanwhile, residents in villages where the dams are to be constructed recounted the controversy that has stalked the projects they said were “forced down their throats”.

Yesterday in Kipsaiya village, where construction of the Sh38 billion Arror dam is said to be underway, locals claimed some powerful Government officials used the police to harass those who opposed the project.

The Standard established no construction was going on despite reports Sh4 billion advance payment had been made.

Locals, who were to move out before end of April to pave way for the dam, have been thrown into confusion and have started tilling the same land in preparation for the planting season.

Samuel Kanda, who owns an 11-acre farm, and whose land is being used for a geotechnical survey, said he was asked by KVDA not to cultivate the land this year.

Two drilling machines and a host of operators working for Lilac Engineering Ltd, a firm allegedly contracted to carry out soil structure and groundwater level tests, were busy on Mr Kanda’s farm.

Kanda said he was asked to surrender the land last year and was promised an alternative land, but that has not happened.

“I am still pondering my next move. My farm was taken away without compensation. I have been told some money was released for compensation but I have never received it. I may not cultivate my farm this year,” said Kanda.

He said he relies on farming, noting that he believed KVDA when it promised to resettle him as soon as possible.

Another resident, Richard Chepkonga, narrated how police officers used teargas and arbitrary arrests against those who opposed the manner in which the project was being implemented.

Secrecy and fraud

Chepkonga yesterday claimed implementation was, from the onset, marred by secrecy and fraud.

“At some point, they tried to force us to sign some documents but we refused. We later came to realise the documents would have seen us lose our farms. A landowners’ committee was formed but most of their meetings convened by KVDA were held in major hotels in Eldoret and Iten towns and most residents could not attend,” said Chepkonga.

Isaac Yego claimed a land survey last year was characterised by bribery.

“Some residents bribed surveyors to overrate property on their land including their houses. There was malice in every stage in implementing this project,” Yego said.

The residents also criticised the compensation process, saying affected landowners are likely to be shortchanged due to a bungled survey. 

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos wants President Uhuru Kenyatta to order State officials involved in the alleged loss of taxpayers’ money to step aside to pave way for investigations.

”It is unimaginable that such colossal amounts of money have been lost in these projects. KVDA should have done its work thoroughly,” Tolgos said.

He said harassment of locals by security agencies raised questions on the implementation of the project, and created perception among residents that they might not be treated fairly.

“I have not been commenting on this project because I also lack information about it,” the county boss said.

Two weeks ago, Kimosop declined to disclose how much the agency had been given to compensate landowners, only noting, “Some money has been released and we are still waiting for Treasury to release the full amount to compensation residents, which is Sh6.3 billion.”

Report by Stephen Rutto, Silah Koskei and Cyrus Ombati.