INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT

Hasten compensation to fast track SGR completion - contractor

In Summary

• China Communications Construction Company says lack of compensation funds for some sections has slowed the project down.

• The contractor is also grappling with identification of landowners along the stretch in Tuala area, Ngong, which has been difficult.

Workers at the SGR Ngong tunnel during President Uhuru Kenyatta's tour of the project on December 16, 2017
SGR: Workers at the SGR Ngong tunnel during President Uhuru Kenyatta's tour of the project on December 16, 2017
Image: PSCU

The contractor for the second phase of Standard Gauge Railway has urged the government to compensate those affected by the project to allow its completion on time. 

China Communications Construction Company public relations assistant manager Jasper Liu said lack of compensation funds for some sections has slowed the project.

"The problem is not ours, it is a government issue because the responsibility on land compensation and relocation should be the employer’s, "Liu said on the phone.

Liu said the project from Embulbul to the end of Suswa is 95 per cent complete.

However, the contractor still faces a compensation challenge in several blocks of the five-kilometre stretch.

"The community did not leave the corridor. We do not have the construction sites within that distance."

Liu said they have 54 months to complete the project.

On June 23, last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta urged the contractor to stick to the June 2019 completion timeline.

Kenyatta said he would like to use the SGR line on his way to Kajiado for Madaraka Day celebrations.

Liu said if compensation is not hastened, they will not be able to fulfil the anticipated completion schedule.

He said all the stations have been done and what remains is decorations and coordination between stations.

"Communication system is done. They are doing some kind of testing or coordination separately because we cannot do coordination for the whole line," he said.

The contractor is also grappling with identification of landowners along the stretch in Tuala area, Ngong, which has been difficult.

Phase 2A of the SGR commenced on October 19, 2016.

The 120km stretch passes through five counties — Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Nakuru and Narok.

The Sh150 billion is co-financed by the Kenyan and Chinese governments.

Phase 2A includes the construction of tunnels, the supply and commissioning of 56 locomotives, supply and commissioning of 40 passenger coaches and the supply and commissioning of 1,620 freight wagons.

The 4.5-km Ngong tunnel is complete.

Other completed tunnels are Kimuga ( 1.6km) and Nachu ( 1km).

In February, the National Land Commission accused Kenya Railways of moving to court without getting the facts on SGR compensation right.

This was after Kenya Railways moved to court accusing NLC of withholding Sh17 billion payout for those affected by the construction of Nairobi-Naivasha SGR.

The documents filed in court by Kenya Railways indicate NLC received Sh17.7 billion in October last year and now plans to pay 1,090 landowners whose parcels were acquired compulsorily.

“The commission has, however, refused, neglected or failed to compensate the project-affected persons (PAPs) of the Nairobi-Naivasha SGR Phase 2(A) despite receipt of funds for them and repeated demands.”

Kenya Railways said construction work for Phase 2A of the SGR project had suffered delays arising from frustrated Projected Affected Persons (PAPs).

NLC through the letter Ref NLC/GEN.CORRE./VOL.III/(64) addressed to acting managing director Philip Mainga said: "... the commission is of the opinion that the case is in bad faith."

The commission now wants Kenya Railways to withdraw the case forthwith, saying the matter puts the commission in a bad light.

NLC said it has disbursed Sh12 billion to the persons affected by the project and was processing more payments.

Kenya Railways, through lawyer Peter Munge, said the delays may affect the completion deadline of May 31, this year.

The exchange of words attracted the attention of DPP Noordin Haji, who announced the compensation for the second phase of SGR will be stopped to pave the way for investigations.

Haji made the revelations even as landowners engaged authorities in unending blame games.

The term of the first crop of NLC commissioners expired on February 19, further complicating matters.

On April 15, NLC acting CEO Kabale Tache said the commission was seeking to find ways of ensuring the project continue uninterrupted.

With the Ministry of Lands, Tache said the NLC is looking for ways to ensure the construction of the SGR proceeds uninterrupted, even as a probe by the concerned agencies continues.

"This is a flagship project. We want to continue with the project and also allow investigative agencies such as the EACC and the Director of Public Prosecutions to carry on with investigations," Tache said.

Tache said the commission has given advisories on the national land policy formulation framework. The NLC manages public land on behalf of the national and county governments. 

On Saturday, ODM leader Raila Odinga disclosed that he will be accompanying President Uhuru Kenyatta to China this week, a trip that seeks to secure funds for the extension of the SGR from Naivasha to Kisumu.

Kenya hopes to secure Sh368 billion loan during the Beijing trip.