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Court declines to lift suspension of collapsed Sigiri bridge engineers

By Everlyne Kwamboka | Nov 3rd 2018 | 3 min read
The Sigiri bridge under construction in Busia County that caved in on June 26th, 2017. [File, Standard]

The High Court has declined to lift the suspension of two engineers over the collapsed Sh992 million Sigiri Bridge in Budalang'i.

Engineers Oliver Khabure and Godfrey Okumu suspended on March 9 are said to have failed to work as per the deal signed between their companies and a Chinese firm.

It emerged in court that the designs for the bridge were done by incompetent engineers and construction done without the engineers’ supervision.

Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) had awarded the contract to China Overseas Construction Group known as COVEC on July 1, 2015 and it sub-contracted some of the works to Khabure’s Interphase Company and Okumu’s BAC Company.

The two sub-contracted companies said to have been operating without licenses from the Engineers Board were given the job after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with COVEC.

In the deal, Interphase and BAC consultants were to provide adequate design construction and supervision for quality assurance and provide the contractor sufficient information.

In addition, BAC was to complete all necessary survey work for detailed design and construction of the works.

The two moved to court after the board suspended their licenses for a period of two years, saying the board exhibited high handedness and complete regard for any evidence they had placed before it.

“There is no allegation before me that the board acted ultra vires its statutory powers neither do I find grounds for so finding. There is no argument before me that it abused its discretion in adopting the procure it adopted neither do I find any,” said Judge John Mativo.

In the October 29 judgments, the court said there was no evidence to suggest that the disciplinary procedure adopted by the board was tainted with impropriety.

“In view of my analysis and determination of the issues discussed above, the conclusion becomes irresistible that the ex parte applicant has not demonstrated any grounds for this court to grant the Judicial Review orders sought,” read one of the judgments in part.

Khabure told the court in his submission that the board’s action contravened the cardinal principal that no one should judge his own cause.

The engineer averred that his response and letter to the board on the scope of the contract that was written to the board by COVEC (the contractor of the project) was ignored.

The court was told that the engineer was a director of Interphase firm whose primary core function was to carry out the business of an engineering consultancy company.

The then Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Principal Secretary Eng John Mosonik directed the board and other agencies to carry out investigations when the bridge collapsed last year.

An inquiry report by the board shows primary cause of the collapse was sequencing of the concreting of the bridge deck which resulted in unbalanced forces that caused instability and failure of sections of the bridge.

The report further indicates that the construction of the bridge was done without the engineer’s input and that the final design drawings presented numerous inadequacies/ omissions on the bridge design and drawings.

 “Mr Michael Okumu, the General Manager (BAC) who signed the contract, is not a registered engineer, hence, the designs were done by incompetent and unqualified engineers leading to the collapse of the Bridge,” said the board’s registrar, Engineer Nicholas Mulinge Musuni.

According to Musoni, there was no clause in the contract between Interphase and COVEC that KeRRa was to supervise the project. The MOU between Interphase, BAC and COVEC was a design, build and maintain contract.

Okumu and Khabure appeared before the disciplinary committee before the suspension was slapped on them.

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