WANT COMPENSATION FAST-TRACKED

Senators lay bare locals' pain in Sh18bn Kitui road project

House team say unskilled and skilled jobs taken up by strangers, wants compensation done

In Summary

•Casual jobs that that the residents hoped for are being undertaken by non-residents – strangers

•The report further says that children whose schools were affected by the project, either classrooms partially demolished or closed down, are yet to be reinstated.

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses wananchi after launching the Kibwezi-Kitui- Kabati-Migwani road upgrading to bitumen standards in Mutomo, Kitui county
President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses wananchi after launching the Kibwezi-Kitui- Kabati-Migwani road upgrading to bitumen standards in Mutomo, Kitui county
Image: PSCU

Senators have asked the government to fast-track the compensation of Kitui residents whose houses were destroyed to pave way for the construction of the 145km Kibwezi-Mutomo-Kitui road.

In a report that was approved by the House last week, the Senate Roads and Transportation Committee said the Sh18.4 billion project has caused untold pain and suffering to residents.

 

The Kenya National Highways Authority, the project’s implementation agency, and the National Land Commission are yet to compensate locals, project affected persons and those whose land was taken for the expansion of the road.

The lucky ones, especially those whose houses had cracks or collapsed as a result of ballasting and explosion activities by the contractor, have received a paltry Sh1, 000 as compensation.

“There was a lack of fair compensation for structures that cracked as a result of the ballasting activities by the project contractor. Some 98 affected persons were under-compensated as result of the explosions done at the quarry,” the senators said.

The project started in August 2017 and is expected to be completed in February 2021. It is co-funded by the government and Export-Import Bank of China. Its contractor is Sinohydro Corporation Ltd.

The committee inspected the Kibwezi-Athi-Mutomo-Kitui road in Kitui county. The team is chaired by Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi.

They said locals have been kept away from the project. Casual jobs that the residents hoped for are being undertaken by non-residents, the team said.

“Residents reported that most people employed as skilled and non-skilled labourers were non-residents of Kitui county,” the committee report says.

 

The residents have also been forced to endure dust and noise emanating from crushing operations happening 24 hours a day. Some residents have fallen sick while some have developed hearing problems.

“Dust and pollution activities from the quarry operated by the contractor have negatively affected the community. A young girl was reported to have developed hearing problems arising from ballasting,” the report says.

The report further says that children whose schools were affected by the project, either classrooms partially demolished or closed down, are yet to be reinstated.

It is the same case with churches and other public institutions that were affected by the construction works. Kenha gave assurances of compensation but nothing had been done.

A bus park at Ikutha and Athi markets that were supposed to be constructed as part of corporate social responsibility projects were yet to be done three years later.

“The committee heard that the CSR projects had not been done due to constraints of the lump sum contract under the implementation,” the report says.

Residents also raised concerns on the slow pace of implementation.

Only 42.2 per cent of the work has been completed and certified, with only one year remaining to the end of the contract. The contractor has so far been paid Sh7.7 billion.

In the report, the committee cited delays in the relocation of powerline along the corridor, delayed payments, shortage of water for the works, delays in land acquisition and demands for payment of cess by Kitui county government as some of the causes of the slow progress.

The nine-member committee now wants Kenha and NLC to promptly compensate the affected persons. It also wants the scope of the project tweaked to corporate CSR projects in line with the community needs.

“The road contractor should engage and hire local residents for labour on the road project construction for both skilled and unskilled jobs,” the committee said.

 

edited by peter obuya