Kenya paid 15 times above the fair rate in Arror, Kimwarer dams-investigators

National Treasury CS. Henry Rotich(L) when he appeared before the National Assembly Finance Committee at Parliament on Wednesday 19/09/18 on taxation. He is one of the top government officials grilled so far in dams scandal probe.[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Detectives are sifting through documents obtained from Italy in the ongoing probe into how payments for the Arror and Kimwarer dams were made.

The information was obtained from an Italian Government-owned insurer, Service Assicurativi Del Comercio Estero (SACE), which was paid Sh11.1 billion as insurance premium for a loan to build the Sh65 billion dams.

An official in the know said investigations would have progressed quicker if not for a delay he blamed on language barrier.

Apparently, a team of detectives who flew to Italy to meet with SACE officials were handed a copy of the insurance agreement written in Italian thus forcing them to seek the services of interpreters.

The sleuths arrived back in the country on Tuesday.

“Expect action soon. We have interpreted all that we had and we are ready,” said another official aware of the progress of the case.

Detectives have questioned National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich as they seek to determine why SACE charged 17.5 per cent of the loan amount as premium when industry rates averaged 1.5 per cent.

Experts have said Kenya paid 15 times over the fair rate to the Italian Government-owned credit insurer for insuring the loans procured from a consortium of banks led by Intesa San Paolo.

Such insurance arrangements are supposed to guarantee that the loan would be settled in case the borrower is unable to repay – including in cases of retrenchment or death of individuals.

Insurance policy

Mr Rotich had told police that the Sh11.1 billion was as an insurance policy covering 100 per cent of the principal and interest against any potential financial risks to cushion the lenders.

“This was needed to make the facility concessional with below-market interest rates and longer tenure,” he said.

A breakdown of the insurance premiums paid to SACE showed the price for the Arror Multipurpose Dam project was Sh6.1 billion while another Sh5 billion was paid against the Kimwarer Multipurpose Dam.

Rotich said his ministry was not involved after the processes of project identification, prioritisation and procurement were completed by the line ministry and the implementing agency, Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA).

The Cabinet Secretary also acknowledged that he released Sh7.8 billion to KVDA for onward transmission to CMC di Ravenna, the contractor, as advance payment to help kick-start the project.

Advance payments of Sh4.3 billion were made on December 22, 2017 for Arror (15 per cent of the Sh28.5 billion contract amount) and Sh3.5 billion on November 6, last year for Kimwarer, whose contract was worth Sh23.1 billion.

Some of the investigation files had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) before being returned to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to have the new information appended.

At least four charges are awaiting individuals, including top Government officials found culpable by investigators. The charges include conspiracy to commit an economic crime, aiding the commission of an economic crime, abuse of office and negligence of official duty.

Among those who have been questioned under caution are Rotich, top KVDA managers led by CEO David Kimosop, and suppliers of goods and services for the construction of the dams.

Last week, DCI boss George Kinoti and DPP Noordin Haji visited Itare Dam to assess the progress of the project. They said Sh11.5 billion of the Sh28 billion budgeted for the dam had been paid to the contractors, yet only about five per cent of the work had been done.