BY Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga
Never in the history of Kenya have we had an infrastructure project collapse as it is being constructed, in fact, a fortnight after being commissioned by the Head of State. It happened today. The collapse of the Sigiri bridge in Budalangi, confirms the return of a cartel Kenyans are familiar with; the cow boy contractors.
In the past, we have had substandard works done on public projects, usually on roads and bridges, which has compromised the lifespan on such projects and denied us value for money. We arrested this problem with the end of the Kanu regime and the coming of the National Rainbow Coalition government in 2003.
Between the years 2003-2005, as the Minister of Roads, Public Works and Housing, I spent most of my time cleaning up the public works sector and getting rid of cowboy contractors.
We widened the roads while reducing the amount we spent on every kilometer of road built. We also ensured that contractors did quality work and gave Kenyans value for their money.
Kenyans will remember that immediately NARC assumed power, we suspended payments amounting to Kshs. 6.4 Billion that had been set aside to pay these cowboy contractors. But even as I did so, the country had lost over Kshs. 2.5 Billion in corrupt variation orders that financial year. By the end of my tenure at the Ministry, I had rid this country of all cowboy contractors and instilled organization and discipline in the construction industry.
It’s sad to say that the cowboy contractors are back. Jubilee has re-introduced them into the system. And the Jubilee cowboy contractors are not just local. Jubilee is also importing them from China or using Chinese companies and names as fronts for local cowboy contractors.
The collapse of this bridge comes in the middle of a long period of Kenyans being treated to a national comedy of a President running helter skelter desperately looking for projects to commission.
We have pointed out in the recent past that in this frantic, fruitless search for tangible achievements lies the biggest mystery of the Jubilee administration. Every year, the Jubilee Government’s development budget has exceeded the national revenue share of the counties, with which the counties finance both recurrent and development budget.
The Jubilee development budget for four years is Ksh.1.9 trillion. Transfers to the counties on the other hand in the same period amounts to Ksh.970 billion of which the counties aim to spend only a third or Ksh. 320 billion on development projects. Having spent close to six times more than the county governments on development projects, the President should not be scavenging for projects to launch. He ought to have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of Jubilee projects that need launching.
Realising there was nothing to show for its tenure and with an election a month away, the President is putting pressure on contractors to give him something to commission. The tenderpreneurs in Jubilee have also been piling pressure on the same contractors for their cut, regardless of the quality of work done. That is how the Sigiri Bridge happened and disappeared in a whirlwind.
It comes after a section of the SGR’s protection slope around Kambu area in Makueni County was washed away by heavy rains late last year. Then as now, Jubilee went on the defensive and dispelled fears of poor workmanship describing the damage as normal in any construction site.
The collapse of this bridge is frightening and raises several questions. How many other unsafe construction projects are there? Can we trust Jubilee projects with our safety? As things stand now, it appears that even the President’s seal of approval means nothing in terms of quality and safety. NASA will do a safety audit of all Jubilee construction works to ensure that Kenyans are not in any danger for sub-standard work and that there is value for money in the projects that were hurried for the President to have something to launch.
The writer is NASA Flagbearer,a 2017 Presidential Candidate and also The ODM Party Leader.
The Kenyan Weekly newspaper is a fresh general-news publication published on newsprint once a week.