Hillary Mageka, Winstone Chiseremi and Kinyuru Munuhe @PeopleDailyKe
Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich has been quizzed by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) over stalled government projects estimated at Sh366 billion.
Rotich was on Monday questioned for hours in his office and later recorded a statement over missing Sh40 billion which was part of Sh63 billion that had been earmarked for the stalled Kimwarer and Arror dams projects in the Rift Valley.
Detectives are also expected to question the outgoing chairman of the National Land Commission (NLC) Muhammad Swazuri, Kerio Valley Development Authority managing director David Kimosop and other senior government officials.
Confirming the grilling of Rotich, DCI boss George Kinoti said detectives are trying to unravel circumstances under which about Sh40 billion meant for the construction of the two-hydropower dams in Elgeyo Marakwet was embezzled.
An investigations report indicates that the Sh40 billion includes Sh6.3billion mobilisation funds released by the National Treasury.
Records at KVDA reveal that Arror dam was set to cost Sh38.5 billion while Kimwarer dam in Keiyo South was budgeted for Sh28 billion.
Kinoti said that a recent aerial inspection revealed nothing had kicked off on the ground despite the allocation being made and with almost 75 per cent of the monies released.
Detectives said the mobilisation cash meant to compensate families affected by the projects was released in 2017 by Rotich although no land had been acquired.
“At some point, the suspects approached the Kenya Forest Service to allocate them land to construct the dam but no land hand been de-gazetted for that purpose,” another top detective intimated to the People Daily.
The suspected elaborate fraudulent dealings were orchestrated through an Italian contractor, CMC di Ravena and Itenera also of Italy.
A team of investigators from Kenya who flew to Italy led by Kinoti himself and the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji is said to have been shocked with revelations that the money had been released for a project that is nowhere on the ground even as the lead financing company has been declared bankrupt.
CMC di Ravena had acquired a loan but has since been declared bankrupt. This means Kenyan taxpayers will be forced to repay the bank facility sourced on the strength of the contract awarded to the Italian businessmen.
“The money was paid in Italy but withdrawn in London, United Kingdom,” another source revealed. Rotich is one of the Cabinet Secretaries under detectives’ watch over alleged graft alongside his Tourism and Wildlife and Agriculture counterparts Najib Balala and Mwangi Kiunjuri respectively.
Balala in wanted by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for the irregular award of the tender to American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Kenya in hosting the 2017 Destination Expo Conference in Nairobi at a cost of Sh100 million. Kinjuri is on the spot over imported substandard fertiliser.
He is accused of contravening the Public Procurement and Disposal Act through influencing the award of the lucrative tender through single sourcing, overpricing and signing contract documents which are supposed to be signed by the Principal Secretary.
On the other hand, Kiunjuri has been on the watch list since President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly rebuked him over payment of Sh3.5 billion to maize tenderpreneurs at the expense of genuine farmers by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCBP).
Hundreds of government-funded projects across the country have gobbled up billions of taxpayers’ money but remain abandoned.
Last year, the President issued a directive to all ministries and state departments to complete ongoing before embarking on new ones.“There will be no new projects that will be embarked on until you complete those that are ongoing…Even if new projects are aligned to the Big Four they cannot be started without express authority from CS or PS of the National Treasury,” Uhuru said in July 2018.
The stalled projects have now caught the eye of Kinoti, who has launched investigations into the massive loss of funds in the construction of two hydropower mega-dams.
Last evening, Kinoti disclosed that he has already summoned and recorded statements from various Cabinet and Principal secretaries, who he has labelled ‘persons of interest.’
“The first person to be interrogated by our team was National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich. However, we are casting our net wider to unearth this mega-scandal that I can only compare to Goldenberg,” he said. Goldenberg cost the taxpayer Sh68 billion.
At least Sh6.3 billion was allocated to buy land to compensate and about 800 families. The groundbreaking ceremony for the two dams was to take place in September last year.
According to available paper works, the project was to be a joint venture by KVDA, CMC di Ravena and Itenera of Italy and was to add 60 MW of electricity to the national grid. The projects are among those flagged out as white elephants by Auditor General Edward Ouko in his report.