Will a scandal be avoided this time?
President William Ruto has announced plans to resume the construction of the stalled Arror, Kimwarer and Itare dams project, which have been subject to court cases over graft scandals.
The announcement follows talks by the president and the Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who is on an official tour in the country.
According to President Ruto, the Government of Kenya and three Italian firms, that have been contracted for the project, have agreed to withdraw a pending court case over the cancellation of the May 2017 contract to construct two multi-purpose dams in Kerio Valley at a cost of Sh66 billion. Arror Dam in Marakwet West was to cost Sh38 billion while Sh28 billion Kimwarer Dam in Keiyo South carried a price tag of Sh28 billion.
Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal in details
By the mere mention of Arror and Kimwarer dams, the only thing that comes to the mind of Kenyans is the massive scandal and the allegations of graft that characterized the once ambitious project of former president Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto Jubilee’s government.
At the center of the popular dams scandal is an Italian firm, CMC di Ravenna, and 28 government officials that included former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge.
The Italian construction company failed to construct the Arror and Kimwarer dams despite being paid billions of shillings. CMC Di Ravenna-Itinera JV received Sh4.3 billion on September 27, 2018, as an advance payment for Arror dam and Kimwarer, an advanced payment of Sh3.5 billion was approved on July 2, 2018. Another Sh11 billion offshore payment was made to Italy’s SACE Insurance. According to evidence submitted in court papers.
The Italian firm filed for bankruptcy in the heat of the scandal.
The government officials were charged with 24 economic offenses among them abuse of office and conspiracy to defraud.
Former Treasury CS Henry Rotich and his PS Kamau Thugge were among 28 top government officials charged in the multibillion-shilling Kimwarer and Arror dams’ scandal. They were facing 24 charges among them abuse of office and conspiracy to defraud.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in July 2019 ordered the arrest and prosecution of Treasury CS Henry Rotich and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge over the multibillion-shilling Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal. According to the DPP, Rotich and others were facing 8 counts of charges each under economic crimes for having flouted procurement procedures, and misled the public about the state of national finances, in order to award the tender to the bankrupt Italian firm CMC Di Ravenna.
In 2021, charges against CS Rotich and PS Kamau Thugge were dropped. In October 2022, Thugge was reappointed to a senior government role under Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza government. He now heads Fiscal Affairs and Budget Policy in the new administration.
Arror and Kimwarer project canceled
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2019, following recommendations of a technical committee, constituted to investigate the dam scandal, canceled the Kimwarer dam project after it was established that it was “technically and financially unfeasible”. According to findings by the task force the Arror and Kimwarer dams were over-priced.
Following the failed dam project and the scandal that ensued; the government moved to demand Sh7.7 billion in insurance money, from two local banks, that had been paid for the controversial Arror and Kimwarer dams project. Sh4.1 billion from Heritage Insurance for the Arror dam and Sh3.6 billion from Standard Chartered Bank for the Kimwarer dam.
Among the court cases filed over the Arror and Kimwer dam scandal is one filed by several residents from Kerio Valley region, where the dams were to be located, who had also moved to the High Court to oppose the implementation of the Arror dam project, citing a lack of public participation and forceful land acquisition.
With Ruto’s announcement that the Arror and Kimwarer dams will be revived; concerned active citizens are waiting to see, first;
- If the government will be accountable for the flaws that rocked the Arror and Kimwarer project from the onset; costing taxpayers billions of shillings
- Whether the recommendations of the technical committee regarding the overpriced budget will be taken into account;
- Just how different will things be this time? Ruto’s government must prove that this is not just “another turn for the Kenya Kwanza regime to eat”
StanChart and Heritage to Pay Sh7.7B for Dams Scandal