The promised Mombasa – Nairobi expressway might not start any time soon, following revelations that greed and graft reigned high at the ministry of Transport and the Kenya National Highways Authority(KeNHA).
According to a local publication, the project cost was inflated by 66.7 per cent, from an estimated cost of US$1.8 billion (Ksh185.7 billion) to US$3 billion (Ksh309.5 billion).
The 485-kilometre highway was supposed to have commenced construction last year, but it was pushed to January this year as the US government which is the top financier smelt a rat, and hesitated its commitment.
In January, the project failed to take off and was pushed to June this year, but still works failed to commence.
Th project is supposed to be undertaken by American construction company-Bechtel International, which signed the contract on August 5, 2017 after a year-long consultation.
According to the US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter, US was keen on evaluating whether the project is giving Kenyans value for their money, hinting that the project could be “three to four times higher than the actual” cost. He also said that US was wary of Kenya’s ballooning debt, which currently stands at Ksh5.8 trillion.
“We are still working on the finance. Kenya has a challenge of debt and we are wary of burdening Kenyans. At a cost half the price of rail and roads previously built, the highway will be built in segments, leveraging private investors to minimise government debt,” said McCarter.
According to the Star, the Environmental Impact Assessment on the project was never completed.
“Fresh consultations will be required which will inform compensation for affected persons. Currently we cannot even say who will be affected because the route has not been decided,” a source told the daily.
The Ministry of Transport has however distanced itself from the figures mentioned, but has not provided the actual figures.
“How can we talk about figures for a non existent transaction?,” Transport CS James Macharia said, insisting the country has no contractual commitment to the project.
On the other hand, KeNHA said that land for the project had already been identified, conflicting the CS.
“Land had been identified along the old alignment but issues arose over bringing down a lot of facilities along the road. We have now found land fully off Mombasa road,” KeNHA director general Peter Mundinia said.
It is yet to be clear the actual state of the project, with the US government seemingly backtracking even after a meting between President Donald Trump and President Uhuru Kenyatta.