VALUE FOR MONEY

MPs to probe 'fishy' Sh2.8b ICT fibre project

In Summary

• The MPs fear the government got a raw deal from the Sh2.8 billion project 

• ICT PS Jerome Ochieng’ cited IFMIS's deployment across the 47 counties as a success of the project. 

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi
Image: FILE

MPs have begun investigating the Sh2.8 billion fibre optic cable project over fears that the government got a raw deal from the tender.

The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi yesterday directed ICT ministry to furnish the committee with all contract documents the government signed with the Chinese firm for scrutiny.

 The ministry is to submit all the documents within two weeks.

MPs Peter Masara (Suna West), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), James Gichuki (Othaya) and Ronald Tonui (Bomet Central) wondered how the government ignored local firms and issued the lucrative tender to a foreign firm.

“This is a lot of money. Procurement of this contract was not done in an open manner and we are not sure if taxpayers got value for money,” Wandayi said.

“I have a problem with the contract. If the loan was advanced by Chinese authorities, why is it that a company carrying out the contract is also from China? Why not a Kenyan company?” Gichuki asked.

The lawmakers termed the contract ‘fishy’ insisting Kenyans did not get value for money.

ICT PS Jerome Ochieng told the committee that money was wired directly to the Chinese service provider Hauwei Tech. Co. Limited and local contractors were only engaged in digging the trenches where the countrywide cable was laid.

Ochieng’ was appearing before PAC to respond to queries raised by Auditor General Edward Ouko on the ministry’s spending for the financial year 2016/17.

The government had in 2006 obtained a Sh2,873,149,809 concession loan from Exim Bank of China to lay fibre networks for both backbone and metro trunk across the country.

 
 
 

The network was meant to connect government headquarters buildings in both national and county offices.

Phase two of the multi-billion project is aimed at laying an additional 2,500km of fibre networks connecting counties and sub-county headquarters, schools, hospitals, police stations among other key public installations.

The PS, however, defended the project from claims that Kenyans are yet to get value from it citing the Integrated Financial Management Information System which he explained is enabled through the fibre network.

“I can confirm that the system is working. We have connected all the 47 counties and this is the same platform through which IFMIS works,” Ochieng’ said.

He was accompanied by newly appointed ICT Principal Administrative Secretary Eric Kiraithe and government spokesperson Rt. Col Cyrus Oguna during the session which lasted two hours.

The National Optic Fibre Backbone project was aimed at ensuring connectivity in all the 47 counties of Kenya. 

The government said it would ease communication across counties as well as improve government service delivery to the citizens such as application of national identity cards, passports and registration of birth and death certificates.

Phase One began in 2007 and was completed in 2009, while Phase Two began in 2014. 

(Edited by O. Owino)