March 28, 2011


This latest little dam escapade has echoes of the fuss over the construction of The Turkwell Gorge Hydro Electric Dam Project. A transparent release of related documents might dispel the present’s pointier questions and so we request it. Your move, dam builders.

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Scrutiny on application of funds in Kenya’s dam building projects

Scrutiny on application of funds in Kenya’s dam building projects

Now where have we heard this before? A special report by the Auditor General has found that expenditure on construction work for dam projects at Maruba, Kitserian, Umaa, Badasa and Chemusu has exceeded the budget provisions by Sh660 million.

In addition, the report states, the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation cannot account for a further Sh653 million of expenditure ‘as there was no supporting documents to justify spending’. [The Standard, March 28, ‘Report faults Sh9.8 billion dams project’] (since deleted)

There’s more. The report reveals that a lack of feasibility studies has led to design and technical problems and the need, as a result, for additional work (and of course, additional expenditure); adequate geological surveys had not been undertaken; the cost of land acquisition at three of the sites had not been taken into account leading to extra claims of Sh186 million from the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forest Service among others; it has been ‘impossible to confirm’ whether Sh87 million incurred on two of the contracts ‘represented good value for money; and, Sh80 million was paid to hire two ‘quality assurance’ ‘experts’ for reasons that no one seems to know. Nice work if you can get it.

Dam building works raise questions about the efficacy (and legitimacy?) of government spending

So where have we heard this before? Well for those old enough to remember, this latest little dam escapade has echoes of the fuss over the construction of The Turkwell Gorge Hydro Electric Dam Project back in the early 1990’s

The Turkwell Gorge Hydro Electric Dam Project was commissioned in 1986 and completed by the French company Spie Batignolles in 1991. Allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement were made prior to the projects completion and in 1991 a Consultative Group meeting of donors to Kenya imposed a full aid embargo on the country largely because of allegations surrounding Turkwell Dam. Allegations were also repeated in the media in 1993 and again in Parliament in June 2000 when accusations were made by the then Opposition leader, one Mwai Kibaki, and a Mr Simeon Nyachae MP.

The central allegation was that the Turkwell Hydro-Electric Dam project had been commissioned without undertaking an adequate feasibility study and had been overpriced to allow for the siphoning off of funds.

So sounds familiar but, on one particular point, there the similarity between the two stories ends.

The facts of the Turkwell Dam Project, it’s commissioning, building and the costs involved, were placed in the public domain, with full public disclosure of the facts and related documents relating to the project being made on four different occasions.

In 2000 Permanent Secretary, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of Public Service to the Kenya Government, Richard Leakey, declassified the Turkwell Gorge Government files to make them publicly accessible. The information was also made public in the Hansard, Parliamentary Debates of June 8, 2000. And full disclosure of all relevant information was again made public in a court judgment in March 2002, where the Court found as a fact that there was no foundation to the allegations (a judgment that was later upheld in a ruling by Chief Justice Gicheru in December 2004).

Previous dam building project in Kenya found to be well-managed and well-intentioned

The facts as established both through public disclosure and through the Kenyan courts were clear and, as far as The Forum believe, undisputed.

Four feasibility studies were carried out on the Turkwell project which estimated the cost at US $ 294 – US$ 362 million. The final actual cost to the Kenya Government was US$ 165.7 million, a saving of between US$ 128.3and US$ 196.3 million. So no overpricing, no surplus funds and no, what shall we call it, laundering. And, would you believe, Turkwell was completed nearly two years ahead of schedule

The Turkwell Hydro Electric Dam is now estimated to be the fourth largest power producer out of KenGen’s power stations, has recently been featured in advertisements for a cement company to show how things should be done and is regarded by engineers as probably the best civil engineering project ever undertaken in Kenya.

It comes to something when Moi’s regime comes out tops over our new democracy for efficiency, cost-effectiveness and transparency. Time for questions to be raised in Parliament and the full public release of the relevant files on our present dam building projects? If only, we might suggest to those involved in the projects, so that they can prove their hands are as clean as those that built Turkwell are?



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