It’s time to review SGR deal, get value for money from it

Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto has started making amends to what might be the country’s most misinformed project - the Standard Gauge Railway.

Taking steps to tame the greed shown by the Africa Star Railways, the operator of the SGR business, can only be described as noble considering that the Chinese firm has had little regard for Kenya’s interest in the project undertaken by its parent firm, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

It is clear CRBC has enjoyed unchecked control in the railway it helped finance whose justification was informed by overly optimistic projections.

Kenyans should remember that the feasibility study done before the project could be sanctioned was executed by the Chinese contractors, whose real incentive in the broader scheme of things is only beginning to show.

Mr Ogeto has directed Kenya Railways Corporation to terminate the operating contract with Africa Star Railways as part of an awakening among Kenyan officials who, for long, were unjustifiably blinded by the grandiose project that has had little benefit for Wanjiku, and could be many years before our mothers draw any value for the Sh500 billion already sank in the project. Ogeto’s reasoning in his counsel is simple: SGR was a super good project for any country, but whose undertaining was never informed by an honest assessment for value.

With this reality, it is only fair that the agreements entered earlier based on projections be reviewed when the actual reality bears little in common with the anticipated numbers for passengers, cargo and the resultant revenues.

It is encouraging that the Kenya Railways Corporation is also admitting, albeit too late in the day, that the SGR does not, with the benefit of hindsight, deliver value for transporters, as it is the most expensive alternative that all competing options, including the old railway line built in 1902.

Ogeto should be supported in ensuring that either the operator stops frustrating Kenya Railways in its bid to enter a new contract on revised terms or the Corporation severs the ties and plunges to the deep end to manage the pricey infrastructure.

Given that we have already committed our country to repaying the Chinese loans extended to fund the construction of the railway, there is no need to keep the country ensnared in an abusive marriage where Kenyans are collectively and continuously fleeced in a bad deal entered years gone by.