Sorry state of major airports exposed

Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen receives the Multisectoral Technical Committee report on the state of airports from Chairman Walter Ogolla as Transport CS Mohamed Daghar looks on. [File, Standard]

A new report has exposed the sorry state of Kenya’s three major airports, ranging from defective and inadequate infrastructure and electro-mechanical facilities.

A multi-sectoral technical committee was constituted 35 days ago and tasked to investigate the status of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Moi International Airport and Wilson Airport.

Their report revealed that most of the facilities in the airfields are either defective or not working.

Some of the highlighted defects include damaged runways, old and leaking water pipes, poor drainage, rusted and leaking roofs and ceilings, and poor power backup system, among others.

The committee also found that the airports are grappling with manpower shortage particularly in the technical and engineering sections.

A total overhaul of power backup systems and water reticulation systems was recommended as well as commissioning of new 2MVA standby generators to provide primary backup.

Recently, JKIA was in the limelight due to frequent blackouts owing to power failures that bring operations at the premier airport to a standstill.

Leaking roofs also exposed defective workmanship at the airport.

Speaking during the report handover, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen said manpower challenges at Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), in particular in the engineering department, would be a priority area for the implementation team.

“KAA has been a jungle, so to speak, without knowing who does what exactly. I am happy the reorganization this report recommends will make the agency one of the best place to work in,” said Murkomen.

The CS added that the recommendation to put employees under performance-based contracts will ensure accountability, best standards and value for money. The committee also took issue with the legal department, which they said cost KAA liabilities due to failed projects.

“The other key area of review is our legal services which have been a major avenue for loss of funds. We must put all lawyers under clear performance indicators and make sure that they charge reasonable fees and protect their cases,” said the CS.

“Those who lose cases through negligence should be removed from the panel of pre-qualified contractors,” he added.

Succession strategy

KAA was also found to be operating without a structured succession strategy. The committee findings revealed that the water system has hazardous asbestos water pipes which supply drinking water to the airports hence posing health risks to travelers and airport employees.

The team recommended replacement of all the asbestos pipes with new plastic pressure pipes that meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards for drinking water.

“Install a dedicated treatment plant to treat water used in the aircraft and replace the old fire hydrant pipes with new pressure pipes to reduce leakages in the line. Seek for alternative ways of water supply,” reads the report.

Some of the fire detectors in the parking silos are damaged and the committee recommended integration of the fire alarms and detection systems to make them addressable, and replacement of the fire pumps.

The committee urged the ministry to install a new roof for the entire terminal building 1B, 1C and 1D, complete with rain harvesting facilities, solar energy and other associated services.

The technical team to be tasked with the implementation of the recommendation will erect canopies on critical walkways, construct and rehabilitate walkways, extra parking lots, resolve land encroachment issues, complete the boundary fence and the patrol road, and restore runway friction levels.

Other works include the construction of a new terminal building and the provision of sanitary facilities for persons with disabilities

According to the committee, majority of projects undertaken in the last two years are either incomplete or terminated partly caused by improper projects procurement and implementation process in KAA.

The team found that the storm water drain from Mombasa Road requires to be enhanced or re-routed to direct the water away from the aircraft pavements, freight terminal (cargo area) and underpass at Tower Avenue to eliminate flooding.