Billions at risk as governors house projects stall halfway

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022 05:54 | By
Lamu county headquarters built at a cost of Sh127 million. Auditor General Nancy Gathungu (below) says there are no records on the projects environmental impact study. PD/FILE

Taxpayers risk losing up to Sh5.5 billion installed and delayed construction of official residences of governors, their deputies, Assembly Speakers and county headquarters.

Despite the 47 executives allocating millions of shillings to the projects in the 2018/19 financial year, some devolved units are yet to complete the construction of the residences.

Some devolved governments are still in the process of buying land and building homes for senior officials.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) had given counties until June 2019 to establish official residence for governors, ahead of the phasing out house allowances for the county chiefs.

The report by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu for the financial year ended June 2020, shows that while the county governments had spent the cash on the multibillion projects, “minimal” work had been done.

Project abandoned

For instance, in West Pokot county, the devolved unit paid a company Sh22.6 million for the construction of the governor’s office complex.

A tender for the construction of the project was awarded at a contract sum of Sh198 million on June 4, 2019, and works were expected to be completed within 36 weeks.

“Physical verification of the project carried out in January 2021, over eighteen months after signing of the contract agreement, revealed that the contractor was on site and only approximately 10 per cent of the works had been done,” she added.

“Excavation, foundation walling, hard-core filling and slab laying works had been done on the ground floor, an indication that the project will not be completed within the contract period,”  Gathungu says in her report.

In Kwale where Governor Salim Mvurya is serving his final term, construction of the governor’s residence had been abandoned and the contractor was not on site.

The construction of the building was set for completion in 2019.

When he appeared before the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC) chaired by Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko in July last year, the governor blamed bad weather, unresolved boundary disputes and change in scope of the project as the cause for the delay.

The contract was awarded in the 2017-2018 financial year for 12 months. It was later extended by four months with the new completion date being August 2019.

As of June 30, 2020, the project had gobbled up Sh105 million.

“Site inspection in November 2020 revealed that the contractor was not on-site with minimal work having been done between October 2019 and November 2020,” the report states. “Consequently, value for money has not been realised on the project which is likely to incur more costs due to the delays in completion.”

But concerning the county headquarters, constructed at an estimated cost of Sh462 million,   a site visit by the auditors' team revealed that the building had been occupied and was in use.

However, the management did not hand over the projects reports for audit review.

“This was contrary to Part 7.2.4 of the Public Works Manual for Works 2009 on finishing the contract, which provides for completion, taking-over certificate, operating and maintenance manuals and final account procedures at the end of a construction project,” the auditor states.

Gathungu says it was not possible to establish whether value for money was realised and that the building was ready for occupation.

In Kisumu County, the auditor has questioned the payment for the renovation of the deputy governor’s house at Sh5 million. According to the auditor, the Bills of Quantities were not signed and there were no preparation date and tender reference numbers.

“The contract agreement did not disclose the contract timeframe and the contract amount,” the report says.  “Further, the works are done underpayment certificate number One (No.1) dated 17 June 2019 amounting to Sh5 million was not supported by an inspection and acceptance report and letter of appointment of the inspection committee.”

“Consequently, the accuracy, validity and completeness of Sh1.1 billion, in respect of the acquisition of assets reflected in the statements of receipts and payments for the year ended 30 June 2020 could not be confirmed,” it adds.

Environmental laws

During the year under review, the Machakos County government awarded a tender of Sh136 million for the construction of Matuu County Lodge for use by the governor.

“No investment appraisal document was provided for audit to indicate that construction of the County Lodge deserved priority over other projects that may directly benefit livelihoods of the County’s residents,” the report states.

In Migori County, the government paid a consultant Sh93.9 million for research studies, design and supervision payments in respect to consultancy services for architectural drawings and supervision of works for three projects namely county office headquarters, governor’s office and the deputy governor’s residence.

However, physical verification of the projects revealed that work had not commenced despite architectural drawings being done and supervision money paid.

In Lamu County, the executive awarded a contract for the construction of a new county headquarters building and registry at Mokowe at a contract sum of Sh126.8 million.

The contract agreement was signed on June 24, 2019, and payments to the contractor as of June 30, 2020, totalled Sh31.9 million or 25 per cent of the contract sum.

However, there were no records on the environmental impact study, if any, carried out in respect to the project, and no indication whether approval had been granted for its implementation.

The auditor says that in this circumstance, adherence of the project to environmental laws could not be confirmed.

Elsewhere, the Meru County Executive paid Sh19 million and  Sh8.7 million to a firm for the construction of the governor’s and his deputy’s official residence in Meru town.

The Sh19 million was for the first certificate dated March 29, 2019, of the contract with a contract price of Sh127,124,366.

A review of the contract and an addendum to the contract revealed that the contract period was for 24 weeks from October 15, 2018, to April 14, 2019.

Physical verification carried out on October 21, 2020, revealed that the project was incomplete, the contractor was not on-site and the project had stalled.

In the circumstances, the auditor says, the value for money for the expenditure of Sh18,599,807 on the construction of the governor’s official residence had not been realised.

On the construction of the deputy governor’s official residence in Meru Town, a review of the contract revealed that the contract period was 24 weeks from 15 October 2018 to 14 April 2019.

Physical verification carried out on October 21, 2020, revealed that the project was incomplete, the contractor was not on-site and the project appeared stalled.

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