A team of top Kenyan security officials arrived in Italy yesterday on a mission that could finally lead to the prosecution of prominent persons implicated in the loss of at least Sh21 billion meant for the construction of two vital dams.
The team plans a series of meetings with Italian officials to agree on how they can recover money meant for the stalled construction of Arror and Kimwarer dams.
Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti and senior officials from the State Law office arrived in Italy armed with what they consider to be crucial evidence of the fraud, which they intend to present to the Italian authorities.
Kinoti confirmed last night the team had arrived in the south European country on a mission that “could bear fruit for us on this dam thing”.
“We remain positive that this could be the last step before seeing people taking pleas,” he said without elaborating.
Haji and Kinoti left Kenya hours after holding a day long meeting with the Italian ambassador to Kenya Albert Piera on Tuesday. The meeting took place at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commissions’ Integrity Centre headquarters, Nairobi.
Also present at the meeting were Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and EACC boss Twalib Mbarak.
We could not immediately confirm whether Kihara and Mbarak travelled to Italy, but sources said senior officials from the two offices were in the delegation.
Yesterday, a source at Integrity Centre confirmed the Tuesday meeting, saying it was meant to explore ways to seal any loopholes in the case and set the stage for arrests and prosecution.
“Our discussions centred on possible collaborations between Italy, EACC, DCI and ODPP on capacity building, mutual legal assistance and investigations in combating corruption,” the source told the People Daily.
Top on the agenda for Haji and Kinoti is to convince the Italian government that they had concrete evidence on fraud over the dams projects.
The evidence is likely to include a report from the Auditor General’s office that shows that more than Sh4 billion paid for the work cannot be accounted for.
Last week, the Auditor General questioned an advance payment of Sh4.2 billion that was made for the construction of Arror dam.
Auditor General Edward Ouko raised questions over the unsupported advance payment that was sourced from foreign borrowings and paid to Italian firm CMC Di Ravenna-Itinery JV, yet no work has been done on the ground.
In the report tabled in the National Assembly, Ouko expressed concern that despite the payment, there was no evidence of the disbursement, when the money was paid and by who, and who granted authority for the funds to be paid. He added that no environmental impact assessment report was given for audit.
Interest on loan
The payment was made despite the fact that Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), the implementing agency, had not recommended it.
People Daily established that the Kenyan team will meet officials of the Italian government-owned insurer Service Assicurati vi Del Comercio Estero (SACE) which was paid Sh11.1 billion as insurance premium for a loan to build the two dams. The amount was advanced in two tranches.
Officials in the know of the probe revealed that Kenya was paying an interest on a loan that the country did not know about, warning that the country could default.
One of the officials said: “The deal was government to government, however, it has now turned to be a commercial deal. We cannot secure a loan and also pay for insurance of the same.”
The loan has matured and it is part of public debt eating into the national budget.
Since investigations into the dams scandal began, a number of top state officials have been questioned, including National Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and Industrialisation CS Peter Munya.
Others are Treasury PS Kamau Thugge, former Devolution and Planning PS Irungu Nyakera, former East African Community PS Susan Koech, former KVDA managing director David Kimosop and the parastatal’s procurement manager Paul Kiprotich, among others.
The two dams are budgeted to cost Sh65 billion. An advance payment of Sh7.8 billion was paid out; Sh4.3 billion for Arror and Sh3.5 billion to Kimwarer.
Documents in investigators’ possession further show an additional commitment fee of Sh900 million; Sh418 million for Kimwarer and Sh490 million for Arror paid out to CMC Di Ravena.
A counter fund kitty of Sh900 million meant for compensation and relocation of land owners cannot be accounted for. According to KVDA records, Arror and Kimwarer dams were to occupy 8000 acres.
Detectives have traced the money as part of the payment made in Italy then re-routed to Barclays Bank, Westlands Branch, Nairobi. Another Sh300 million and a further transaction of Sh150 million was made from Nairobi to Dubai and South Africa, respectively.
If actualised, construction of the two dams would have seen an addition of 60 MW of electricity to the national grid.
Also, KVDA gave misleading information that they had acquired 400 hectares of forestland from the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in exchange for 570 hectares of private land, an assertion the KFS board dismissed in a formal board resolution.