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Agency turns screw on KPC in fuel theft probe

BUSINESS
By Macharia Kamau | August 2nd 2019

Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) Former ERC Director General Pavel Oimeke(R) and Oil and Gas Acting Managing Director Edward Kinyua when they appeared before the Senate Energy Committee on oil spillage and escalating fuel prices at Parliament on Thursday on August 1, 2019. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) could soon return to the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) as investigations into possible collusion in the fuel siphoning syndicate on its new Sh48 billion pipeline intensify.

This is on the recommendation of the Energy and Petroleum Authority (EPRA), which yesterday noted that failure by the contractor - Zakhem International - to install a mechanism to detect leaks on the pipeline between Mombasa and Nairobi amounted to negligence.

This has proven costly, with the pipeline experiencing a major leak in March this year at Kiboko area in Makueni County, causing untold suffering to residents.

It emerged recently that a syndicate suspected to involve KPC employees has been siphoning fuel from the pipeline at Mlolongo. This could, however, been happening since the pipeline was commissioned last year, with millions of litres of petroleum products being lost.

Senate’s Committee on Energy yesterday questioned whether the loopholes that led to the leak at Kiboko and siphoning of fuel at Mlolongo were introduced during the construction phase.

The committee said this could point to either a shoddy job or even collusion by the contractor, KPC engineers and unscrupulous individuals to access fuel once the pipeline started operations.

EPRA Director-General Pavel Oimeke said the regulator on Monday wrote to the DCI to look into KPC, Zakhem International and other contractors that were part of the construction team. "EPRA wrote to the DCI on July 30, 2019, requesting the DCI to undertake comprehensive investigations on the failure of KPC to install a leak detection system on Line 5. EPRA further requested the DCI to take stern legal action on any KPC or contractor employees found culpable of professional negligence,” Oimeke told the committee.

He was presenting a progress report on what the regulator has done in resolving the oil spill at Kiboko.

Committee Chairman Ephraim Maina noted that the loopholes that are emerging now could have been deliberately introduced during the construction of the pipeline referred to as Line 5.

"How many other defective points are there on the pipeline between Mombasa and Nairobi? Other than the leak at Kiboko, there was the instance of siphoning in Mlolongo and there is no way this was drilled by just another man off the street,” he said. Initial investigations indicated that the junction through which the fuel was being tapped could only have been created before the 20-inch pipe was buried in the soil.

The pipeline has been dogged by controversies from the onset, including major delays, having been delivered close to two years late.

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