FLAGSHIP DEBT

Sh31.5 billion bills mar Uhuru's star road projects

Taxpayers to foot extra costs in penalties arising from delayed payment of the infrastructure debts

In Summary

•The audit singled out inadequate budgetary allocation and late exchequer disbursement as scuttling prompt payment of the bills.

• Projects are at different stages, some complete.

The ongoing roadworks along the Wangige stretch interchange. The Western Bypass will complete the city's Ringroad.
FLAGSHIP DEBT: The ongoing roadworks along the Wangige stretch interchange. The Western Bypass will complete the city's Ringroad.
Image: CHARLENE MALWA

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s flagship road projects have accumulated Sh31.5 pending bills, triggering concerns of hidden costs taxpayers will be forced to pay.

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu has sounded the alarm the bills are subject to penalties and interests for the period they remain unsettled.

The audit singled out inadequate budgetary allocation and late exchequer disbursement as delaying prompt payment of the bills.

“The project (s) is at risk of incurring significant interest costs and penalties with the continued delay in making payments," she said in the audit report.

Gathungu highlighted the concerns in her review of Infrastructure Departments’ books of accounts for the year ending June 2020.

President Kenyatta’s administration, data shows, had by 2018 increased the length of tarmacked roads by more than 6,000 kilometres – 80,000km overall, albeit at a high cost considering the query on the bills.

Jubilee’s road projects are a few billions shy of the Sh1 trillion mark, most of them funded by loans from China and the World Bank.

Atop the list are infrastructure projects in the Mombasa port area – the Dongo Kundu bypass, which has Sh6.9 pending bills.

Infrastructure projects under the Mombasa West Integrated Roads Network, among them the expansion of Kipevu road, has accrued Sh2.27 billion pending bills.

Gathungu said the management has not explained the reason the bills were not settled during the year in which they occurred.

“The project is at risk of incurring significant interest costs and penalties with the continued delay in making payments,” she warned.

She restated, "Failure to settle bills during the year to which they relate adversely affects the budgetary provisions for the subsequent year as they form the first charge.”

The Southern Bypass which was constructed for travellers not keen on plying through Nairobi town has a pending bill of Sh2.9 billion.

Motorists at Ayweyo bridge on the Ahero-Kisii Road on Friday, April 24, 2020.
ROADWORKS: Motorists at Ayweyo bridge on the Ahero-Kisii Road on Friday, April 24, 2020.
Image: MAURICE ALAL

The Isebania-Kisiii-Ahero road which is being expanded to modern standards has pending payables of Sh1.8 billion that will rise if it is not settled.

Western Bypass, which is part of the Nairobi Ringroad network, has been beset by pending bills amounting to Sh2.6 billion. The road starts in Gitaru and goes through Wangige to Ruaka.

Thika Superhighway has bills amounting to Sh1.3 billion from the improvement works initiated by the Kenya National Highways Authority.

Kenha has attributed the delay in the discharge of the bills to delays in Exchequer releases and has committed to liaising with the line ministry to resolve the issue.

Of that bill, a balance of Sh823 million relates to disputed claims that arose six years earlier but had not been disclosed as contingent liabilities over the prior periods.

The newly built Kibwezi-Mutomo-Kitui road has pending payments of Sh938 million, with more concerns the project failed to absorb  Sh1.2 billion.

The under-expenditure was attributed to the suspension of work by the contractor due to Covid-19 cases reported in Kitui.

Also queried is Sh1.7 billion pending in projects to improve operations of the National Construction Authority and Engineers Board of Kenya.

Works on the road linking Kenya and Sudan through Turkana as well as the Kainuk Bridge have also accrued bills amounting to Sh1.23 billion, growing by the day.

The Nairobi Outering Road had bills of Sh710 million as of June 2020, while the contractor building the Kapchorwa-Kitale and Eldoret Bypass is set to paid  Sh946.9 million.

The 190km Isiolo-Modogashe road has a bill of Sh39 million so does the Mombasa-Nairobi-Addis Ababa road corridor (Marsabit-Turbi road) where Sh67 million is set to be paid.

For the corridor, Gathungu raised concerns  the project’s bank balance is Sh2.9 million and management has not explained how the bills will be cleared.

“The project has closed and may not attract further funding from the development partner or the Kenya government,” the report reads.

At least Sh58 million is yet to be paid for the Turbi-Moyale road, while the works on the Mombasa-Mariakani highway and Msa-Kwa Jomvu have a bill of Sh133 million.

KeNHAalso failed to explain the non-payment of Sh26 million owed to the Kenya-South Sudan Link road.

Works under the Central Kenya Rural Roads Improvement have accumulated bills of Sh41.5 million, which Kura management has not explained.

Taxpayers are also set to foot extra perks for the Arusha-Holili/Taveta-Voi project which has Sh42.5 million pending bills, with other queries on excess spending of Sh70 million.

“The over-expenditure was attributed to the fact that the payment included retention money released to contractors during the year but not factored in the budget" the audit report said.

Ongoing construction of the Dongo Kundu road that passes through Kambini village in Tsunza.
ONGOING WORKS Ongoing construction of the Dongo Kundu road that passes through Kambini village in Tsunza.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

The Port Reitz Moi International Airport Access road in Mombasa has a bill of Sh29.6 million while the dualling of Nairobi – Dagoretti Corner Rd project has Sh88 million yet to be paid.

Also queried in the project is an expenditure of Sh1,533,474,035 - an over-funding by 1,533 per cent.

“The project also overspent by a similar margin of the budget. Management explained that it did not have control of offshore payments as the project is fully funded by JICA.”

The Merille-Marsabit has a pending bill of Sh141 million while no reason was provided for non-payment of Sh454 million for Nairobi missing link roads.

National Urban Transport Improvement Project has a pending payout of Sh359 million-plus Sh62.9 million for construction of civil works as of June 2020.

 The Arusha-Namanga road has a bill of Sh83 million while length procurement processes are argued to pose challenges with the Kenol-Sagana-Marua expansion.

The Transport department has Sh6.17 billion pending bills which the management has not explained why they were not settled during the year they occurred.

MPs are concerned that MDAs continue posting pending bills yet a policy is already in place saying they should be the first charge whenever any state agency receives money.

“I don’t understand this argument of ministries saying they have not been provided with money for settling pending bills,” National Assembly Minority leader John Mbadi said.