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Blacklisted Chinese Firm CRBC Behind Scandalous SGR Contract Now Awarded Sh1.5 B Tender To Build Likoni Floating Bridge

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The relationship between Kenya and obsession with Chinese firms when it comes to infrastructure projects is unexplainable but one that has been clouded with greed and plunder as will explain later on.

African governments routinely award road construction contracts to Chinese and other foreign companies. China is in the midst of a global infrastructure spending spree known as the Belt and Road Initiative, which is intended to increase Beijing’s economic and diplomatic clout — but which is bringing rising criticism and scrutiny.

China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has just been awarded a Sh1.5Bn contract to build the Likoni floating bridge. The construction is set to be completed within the next six months.

The project, the Likoni Floating Bridge, will be a complimentary facility to the ferry services, says the Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA).

The project is 660 metres, stretching from north to south in Likoni. The construction of the Likoni Floating Bridge will address the problem faced by the residents of Likoni in accessing Mombasa Island and vice versa, according to KenHA.

Like many other, Coronavirus has become as a blessing in disguise for many. “The project is part of the government’s series of epidemic prevention and control measures” according to CRBC.

Beside the awarding of the tender which like many other contracts with CRBC with the government always treated as big secret. Top of the concerns we should have is over competitive practices and lower wages, many of the jobs that come with such projects may not even go to workers in the slow-growing economy of the Mombasa people.

Typically, Chinese state firms bring most of their own workers for construction projects, an often contentious practice. It is not clear if Kenyan  authorities even know how much the Chinese workers will be paid.

If we’re to borrow a leaf from how CRBC ran the SGR then Chinese nationals will be the biggest beneficiaries as opposed to the locals during the construction.

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Details of this bridge contract is scanty but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, we revealed to details of the secret contract the the government of Kenya made with the CRBC where we unearthed greed and plunder by the Chinese.

The GoK and CRBC pushed through with an unnecessary project which made no economic sense so as to grease the hands of leaders both in Kenya and China.

The intellectuals argued that the Metre Gauge Railway (MGR), which the Lunatic Express runs on should’ve been upgraded at a far cheaper cost.

What the SGR contract which has been seen by KenyaInsights says, the level of theft of Kenya money that had been loaned from China was unprecedented to say the least. The railways runs at a cost of Sh1 billion per month, which is unsustainable and losses are bound to accrue from its running. It is even better, ironically, to stop the trains than to run them.

During its planning and construction, the contract reveals that the managers were the greediest of all greedy of the earth. China which prides itself with tough stance against corruption had allowed its staff abroad to engage in blatant abuse, disrespect and theft of resources. 

Apart from the sensational reports that we’ve seen in some quarters, and the manner in which some people still believe that anyone raising issues with costs surrounding infrastructure projects especially SGR are anti-government or hates the Kikuyu government to be exact. No it is not.

According to the contract, there are some information that was left out that was not covered by the mainstream media. The information reveals the level of theft of Kenya taxpayers money, the money was a loan taken in the name of Kenyan taxpayers signed by then Managing Director of Kenya Railways Nduva Muli.

The claims of inflated costs of the SGR project was in January 2020 supported (not that he didn’t also reveal it in the past) by the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Hon. Raila Odinga in a local TV station. During the interview Raila said that he and former President Mwai Kibaki in the coalition government had tendered the SGR project at a lower cost, but when President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto took over in April 2013, they cancelled the contract and re-tendered a fresh at inflated costs. 

“Before we left government with Mwai Kibaki, we awarded SGR tender to a company at USD2.5billion. But when jubilee came in in 2013, they canceled the tender and awarded it back to the same company but at USD4.5billion. Obvious inflation of figures”, Raila Odinga, told NTV Journalist Joseph Warungu.

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A lot of controversies surrounded the contract by the Chinese firm. The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the SGR project was carried by a Kenyan firm Africa Waste and Environment Management Centre (AWEMAC); the worst part in the report is that  only 217 people were interviewed as Key Informant for the public participation.

The study was rushed and appears to be a formality on the part government of Kenya and their Chinese cronies. The project that had its cost revised upwards would go on and nothing could stop it.

China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the contractor, in a bid to hide crucial information from the public made the Kenyan government sign confidentiality clauses in the controversial contract making it “sensitive and private”.

By the end of this year, Kenya is expected to have repaid at least Sh50 billion of the exorbitant Chinese loan.

The loan, whose interest is 3.6 percentage points above the six month average of London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (Libor) which serves as an international benchmark, is to be repaid in 15 years with a grace period of five years.

The Likoni Bridge contract is small compared to the SGR but it’s still the same monkey in a different forest. The details will eventually emerge but by then the cronies will have already had their share.

Lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, has been taking swipes at the Jubilee government over its thriving love affair with Chinese investors and loans, and a seemingly waning relationship with America and Europe countries.

Ahmednasir had claimed the reason why Jubilee, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, was increasingly obsessed with Chinese investors was because of bribes and kickback. According the senior counsel, popularly referred to as The Grand Mullah, whereas American and European companies were not willing to give bribes or kickbacks, their Chinese counterparts were going the extra mile to win government tenders.

We can’t tell if kickbacks were given in this particular case but it’s not rocket science. CRBC has before been blacklisted by the World Bankblacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent activities in other countries but Chinese firms have found a common interest and partners in Africa so all the dirt doesn’t seem to matter.

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Kenya Insights allows guest blogging, if you want to be published on Kenya’s most authoritative and accurate blog, have an expose, news, story angles, human interest stories, drop us an email on tips.kenyainsights@gmail.com or via Telegram

Kenya West is a trained investigative independent journalist and a socio-political commentator on matters Kenya and Africa. Do you have a story, Scandal you want me to write on? Send me tips to [in.kenyawest@protonmail.com]

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