Chinese company spent Sh1.3 billion on 5 SGR engineers

An SGR passenger locomotive engine pulls passenger wagons from Mombasa in 2017. [File, Standard]
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) splashed over Sh1.3 billion on maintaining five Kenya Railways engineers supervising the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway, tender documents show.

Among the items bought for the five, together with their helpers who were also Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) staff, were fat allowances, mobile phones and airtime.

Housing and offices for the engineers was budgeted at Sh544 million besides the personal remuneration in the country's biggest infrastructure project yet.

Collectively, the engineers attached to the five camps along the different sections were provided with Sh385 million that would cover overtime and supervision costs.

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Ordinarily, seconded employees would still be on their usual salaries from their employer.

Tender documents for the Sh372 billion-worth line connecting Mombasa and Nairobi have provided a rare peak into the costing of the controversial project.

Nduva Muli, the then KRC Managing Director, entered two contracts with the Chinese contractor in July and October 2012 for Sh220 billion and $1.15 billion (Sh115 billion), respectively, which were then collectively worth Sh316 billion.

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The documents, which have been under lock and key, have surfaced in a petition filed by rights activist Okiya Omtatah at the Court of Appeal.

He has petitioned the court to declare the two tenders awarded for the construction of the line and the other for supply of rolling stock irregular.

Further, Omtatah is praying for the judges to rule that the loans taken to fund the SGR be recovered from the individuals who negotiated the loans and not from the Exchequer.

He has cited various incidents where the costs were overly inflated in the bill of quantities (BQs) used by CRBC in the tendering process.

It is in the BQs where the anticipated costs worth Sh1.3 billion for maintaining the supervising engineers is captured.

The single largest cost item worth Sh72 million was budgeted for the payment of “attendant staff” of the engineers, possibly in salaries or allowances.

CRBC planned to spend some Sh42.9 million on “payment of overtime to the engineer’s junior staff”.

The contractor also budgeted another Sh30 million in lump sum pay to engineers as superintendence costs and a further Sh30 million to cover miscellaneous expenses.

That is beside a further Sh7.6 million, which would be set aside to pay for temporary accommodation, likely in instances when they cannot make it to the provided houses in the camps for the night.

Construction of the SGR was done in sections over the 480-kilometre stretch with different teams, each with a supervising engineer from KRC, working on the respective parts.

Engineers were allowed a host of staff, including drivers for the 4X4 pick-up trucks they were assigned and trainees.

CRBC planned a Sh12 million kitty from where the allowances of trainee counterpart from KRC or any other relevant government officer would be paid from.

Telephone costs for the engineers were budgeted at Sh5 million, including 20 mobile phones each costing Sh50,000, fixed telephone lines to their residences on site connected at Sh120,000 and the Sh3.6 million in airtime.

Residences for the KRC staff were constructed from a budget of nearly Sh200 million, with the senior-most temporary officials’ homes built at Sh3 million. Monthly maintenance costs for the accommodation of the engineers’ home was projected at Sh12,274.

It is unclear what the maintenance costs of the residences would include but might consist of cleaning and housekeeping.

A total of Sh48 million was budgeted for maintenance of the KRC staff accommodation for the period of the railway construction.

Costs of keeping the supervising engineers on site are among the outstanding cost items in the tender documents, which also show that CRBC would build a 60-cubic-metre water tank at Sh4.8 million and purchase washing machines at Sh160,000 apiece. 

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China Road and Bridge CorporationKenya Railways engineersStandard Gauge RailwayKenya Railways Corporation