Two CSs face probe over stalled Sh28b Itare dam

A section of Itare Dam in Kuresoi North.The Construction of the Sh 38 billion dam stopped after contractor filed for bankruptcy.:Kipsang Joseph/Standard
At least two Cabinet Secretaries are among dozens of top officials to be questioned by investigators starting this week over the Sh28.9 billion stalled Itare dam.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti have been to Dubai to gather more evidence on the dam saga and in the trail of Sh734 million that was frozen and was about to be moved from Dubai to Somalia.

“They have gathered more evidence before they move forward in regard to Itare dam issue. We expect summoning and grilling of those mentioned soon,” said an official aware of the progress.

Haji and Kinoti arrived back in the country last evening after what officials termed as a successful mission.  

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The fresh round of grillings come on the back of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s weekend declaration that since he is not seeking re-election, he will not relent in the war against corruption for which there will be no sacred cows.

“The culture of unbridled corruption will end, I will continue pursuing the corrupt. I have been telling them that I am not seeking votes anymore, they have to return public money,” Uhuru said in Gatanga on Saturday.

“I don’t have a friend when it comes to fighting corruption. My friends are the people of Kenya.”

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So far, Sh11.5 billion has been paid for the stalled project in Nakuru, but investigators say there is nothing to show for the money.

Apart from the two CSs, those targeted in the fresh probe are officials at the National Treasury, State Department of Water, Attorney General’s office and banks involved in the transactions. The banks are in trouble for giving out unsecured loans for the project.

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Officials say payments for Itare dam were made without regard for due process.

It is a case similar to the Arror and Kimwarer dams saga for which suspended Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge have been prosecuted. Rotich and Thugge, alongside 26 co-accused, have denied the graft charges.

In the Itare case, Dubai-based company, Azepco General Trading Company Limited, was to receive Sh734 million from a Kenyan properties firm, Stanlib Wealth Amanah Property Limited.

Azepco, which is said to be one of the players in the Sh21 billion Arror and Kimwarer dam saga, received 5.8 million euros (Sh661 million) from Italian Company CMC Di Ravenna, which had been contracted to build the two dams.

Sources said the money had already been wired from Stanlib’s account in Nairobi to Azepco’s in Dubai, but the bank declined further instructions to wire the money to Somalia.

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The bank is understood to have alerted the Financial Reporting Centre, which led to the subsequent court order to freeze the cash.

Sources said the money has been linked to a senior government official and it is believed the cash was from the contractor.

Milimani Senior Resident Magistrate Caroline Muthoni gave orders that froze the account at Standard Chartered Bank’s Sarit Center branch belonging to Stanlib Wealth Amanah Property Limited.

Bank statements

The court allowed the investigators to inspect the bank statements, inward and outward remittances, instructions on swift transfers, RTGS, deposits and withdrawal slips and cheques as from December 1, 2017 to date. The investigations officer was also allowed to record statements from bank managers.

Police have revealed the company made an application on July 24 to transfer the Sh734 million to Azepco General Trading Company LLC.

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The attempted transfer of the money was done two days after the arrest of Rotich and Thugge.

Haji and Kinoti had travelled to Dubai on Thursday for prearranged meetings with various officials, including those from banks and the local authorities.

The Itare project has stalled despite billions paid out by the government to the contractor, CMC- di Ravena. For Arror and Kimwarer dams, the government made advance payments of Sh19 billion, which have occasioned the criminal cases in court.

Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui had said remaining works at Itare will be sub-contracted to a third party after the current contractor filed for bankruptcy.

Chelugui said the contractor will nominate another company to execute the remaining work without altering the initial cost.

Both Haji and Kinoti had visited the site and declared only 10 per cent of the work had been done. Works have stalled and up to 70 cars seconded to the company have been confiscated in the probe.

Managers at Barclays Bank have also been questioned over the purchase of the cars for the project.

But according to the ministry, the 57-metre-high dam with 28 million-cubic-metre storage, whose construction started on April 6, 2017, is 43 per cent complete.

It is meant to have a long-term solution to perennial water scarcity in Nakuru, Kuresoi, Molo, Njoro and Rongai. 

An Anti-Corruption Court has since issued warrants of arrest for two Italians who are directors of two companies that benefited from cash paid for Arror and Kimwarer dams.

One of the directors is named in court documents as Paolo Porcell.

The court further directed the DPP’s office to file the list of all directors of the two foreign companies.

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George KinotiPresident Uhuru KenyattaNoordin HajiRotich