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How battle for bribes is hurting Uhuru's dream project

By Moses Michira | February 12th 2019
The stalled SGR phase 2 project at Kimuka area in Ngong, Kajiado County on 25th October 2018. It's believed that the project might not hit its deadline as per the directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta following a deadlock between the National Land Commission and Kajiado County land owners whose land has been acquired for construction of (SGR) project. [File, Standard]

A supremacy battle at the National Land Commission (NLC) could be costing the taxpayer over Sh2 million every day and is staining President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy project.

A contractor says Sh64 million is lost monthly due to suspension of works on a stretch of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) due hostilities from land owners who have protested delayed compensation.

Additional costs of the fight between NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri and his deputy Abigael Mbagaya could be added to the Sh150 billion project cost should the May 31 completion deadline be missed.

Sources said the war is about the control of the nearly Sh18 billion released to NLC for compulsory acquisition of land for the project, and kickback demands made to beneficiaries.

Payment to a Rongai-based church has been suspended over a Sh200 million bribe demand. Two lawyers told the Standard their clients had been approached with similar requests to unlock their compensation.

Confidential correspondence between Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), the Chinese contractor and the Ministry of Transport, lays bare frustrations caused by squabbles at NLC and the likely financial implications.

In one of the most recent letters, Lin Weidong, a team leader for the SGR supervising consultant, protested against compensation delays. He said the deadline would be missed if major works on specific sections fails to start immediately.

That was January 8 and the works involved erecting huge embankments and a major overhead bridge that should be built on the intersection with Ngong Road.

“Your intervention to have the two section (s) handed over to the contractor by the agreed date will be highly appreciated,” Mr Weidong wrote of the timelines missed as the NLC had not paid the land owners. 

People displaced by the SGR project blocked the construction by chasing contractors away. They protested refusal by NLC to compensate them for their land despite receiving the funds last October.

At the time, An Aijun, the general manager of the Chinese contractor CCCC, had complained of the suspension of works following hostility from those displaced and placed the resultant monthly losses at Sh64 million or Sh2.2 million a day.

“To avoid further losses and delays to the project, we request your office to finalise the land compensation process as soon as possible,” Aijun protested.

In yet another protest, he told the KRC: “We have incurred substantial losses, which are still increasing as the suspension continues.”

Philip Mainga, the acting KRC boss, was blunter about how the fights at NLC were affecting the President’s legacy project whose budget from Mombasa to Naivasha has exceeded Sh500 billion.

“The corporation is also concerned that wrangles and confusion at the commission are also contributing to the delay in releasing funds to Project Affected Persons. This is going to affect the project negatively,” Mainga wrote in the letter also copied to State House and the Ministry of Transport.

The tussle between Swazuri has ended up in court, whose determination is likely to be made long after expiry of their respective mandates next Sunday.

In the suit, Swazuri accuses his deputy of usurping his powers following criminal charges brought him over irregular compensations in the SGR phase 1.

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