Security lapse at Kamiti as towers on verge of collapse

Watchtower at Kamiti Maximum Prison. They have been said to not be in use as their weak foundations make them precarious. (Photo: Willis Awandu/Standard)

Security at the Kamiti Maximum Prison could be compromised because the watchtowers at the facility are not in use as their weak foundations make them precarious.

Prison wardens at the facility also fear for their safety as the towers are filled with cracks on the walls and floor, are weak and on the verge of falling; leaving the facility that houses over 2,000 inmates without the required protection.

The seven towers are manned by heavily armed warders and act as a main point of protection for the facility. They are used for surveillance of prisoners to avoid escape. Officers at the towers also survey kilometres away to keep watch on intruders.

The Standard has established that the towers were built in 2012 and cost taxpayers millions of shillings.

Also in question is a multi-million biogas project at the prison carried out in the same period, which was finalised and commissioned; but is not working. The cracked towers that were built without heavy metal pillars are said to have cost Sh40 million and a similar amount was spent on the biogas project.

Officers at the facility say the Sh80 million spent on the project was a waste of taxpayers' funds.

"Even a heavy truck passing near the prison shakes the towers and you feel like they will fall down," an officer who requested not to be named told The Standard.

"We are fearing to keep man on the towers for personal security reasons since they seem like they will fall down any time. We also fear being attacked by the prisoners or criminals like the Al Shabaab, who might take advantage of the security lapse. Even a single grenade can bring a tower down since they are structurally very weak," another officer said.

The Standard has established that on April 13, officials from public works visited the facility to confirm whether the towers were constructed in accordance with procedures and specifications.

"We are waiting for the outcome from the public works officials before deciding on the way forward,"  Kamiti Prison Officer-In-Charge Henry Kisingu said.

The biogas project was initiated so as to tap human waste as a source of raw material for producing gas energy to run the prison.

Although it was tested using cow dung and produced gas, the biogas apparatus is currently not functional as the synthesisers cannot produce gas.

"The biogas was constructed in an area where the sewerage line has a lot of waste water and is prone to flash floods; hence making it impossible to produce gas," a senior prisons official who requested not to be named said.

According to the prisons department official, the biogas apparatus was constructed by the same contractor who carried out similar projects that are also not functional in Shimo La Tewa and Industrial Area prisons.

But when questioned if taxpayers' money had been lost in the constructions at Kamiti, Mr Kisingu said  he was not aware how much was spent on the towers and the biogas project and whether they have been carried out according to standards. "I came to office after both projects had been commissioned and the contracts were not availed to me," he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Isaiah Osugo refuted the claims.

"Rongo tupu. (Total lies). Visit the station and confirm," he replied in a text message. But his reply did not include a feedback to the request for information on how much was spent on the projects.