An engineer and three contractors were on Wednesday arrested by police officers over the stalled Sh1.2 billion road project launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Machakos County over two years ago.
The three, engineer Esther Mwangi of Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) who is supervising the government-funded Ekalakala-Matuu road project, and contractors Zedekiah Opore, Simon Kaingo and Richard Ombati were arrested by Machakos-based police officers.
The trio were arrested at the project’s site office, in an operation led by Machakos County Commander John Karanja, while they were in a meeting with the Machakos County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee.
The three were arrested over shoddy work and stalled tarmacking of the 40-kilometer road that branches off Garissa-Thika Road and runs across Yatta and Masinga constituencies.
In July 2017, President Kenyatta and his deputy, Dr William Ruto, launched the project, which was to upgrade to bitumen standard the Matuu-Ekalakala-Kakuku Rd and Junction A3 Katulani-Junction C439.
Police took the suspects to Matuu Police station to record statements on the circumstances under which the main contractor, Kitho Civil and Engineering, started and abandoned works on the road, before engaging the other two sub-contractors, namely M/s Zedjay Investments Limited and Tekwara Services Limited.
Before their arrest, Kaingo, who is the main contractor, had a difficult time explaining to a committee how he landed the expensive tender despite lacking capacity to accomplish the project.
The committee, which was formed through a Presidential Executive Order, is chaired by the Machakos County Commissioner Esther Maina and its secretary is Larry Mulomi, a director of the President’s Delivery Unit (PDU).
The PDU team was given the mandate of supervising and overseeing all national government projects in Machakos County.
Kaingo could not explain why the tarmacking of the 40-kilometer road which was started on July 21, 2017 was abandoned soon after, yet he had received over Sh100 million in advance payment from the government.
An inspection tour of the project by the presidential committee, accompanied by two senior directors from PDU headquarters, Francis Ngatia in charge of Eastern and Coast regions and his Rift Valley and Northern Kenya regional counterpart Truphosa Awuor, said the contractor had done shoddy work.
Some sections which had earlier been graded were impassable as they were overgrown with grass and shrubs, forcing motorists to use diversions.
It was obvious works were started and forsaken mid-way, a situation the main contractor blamed on financial challenges.
A few sections of the stretch which have been given to the two sub-contractors had indications of recent clearance of shrubs and grading works although the earthmovers were sitting idle along the dusty road.
According to the engineer, Mwangi, the two sub-contractors started work on the July 3, 2019.
“Due to financial challenges, the main contractor M/s Kitho Civil and Engineering Company Limited requested to sub-contract some sections of the works to M/s Zedjay Investments Limited and M/s Tekwara Services Limited who were approved on May 28, 2019,” she told the committee.
She was however unable to explain why the vital project tender was awarded to a financially incapacitated bidder.
The road was due for completion in February 2020 but the presidential delivery committee raised doubts the project would have been completed by then.
It was also established that the contractors were working without a programme of works.
The committee directed the contractors to come up with the programme that guides the execution of tasks in the next two weeks or face dire consequences, including the possibility of having their contract terminated.
Engineer Mwangi was also instructed to be monitoring the daily progress of the works and report any delays to the committee.