Should we consider whether the project was ill-concieved?
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka is an unfortunate man at many levels. Not only has he found himself with challenges of credibility on numerous occasions – not least of which is the adventure of touring African countries trying to dissociate Kenya from the ICC prosecution by Louis Moreno Ocampo. His personal brand has also taken a walloping from his “kigeugeu” dance during the build-up to a new constitutional dispensation, where he oscillated between the yes and the no camps, leaving everyone confused as to what he stands for. Even now, one cannot say what the good VP stands for.
His seemingly indecisive nature seems to have extended to the controversial house that is being built for his office as the Official Residence of the Vice President. In March this year, Public Works permanent secretary, John Lonyangapuo is reported to have assured Kenyans that the Vice-President will move into his house in July this year, after treasury allocates more money to the project.
In all truth, this project is the sort that is a project manager’s worst nightmare. The Saga started in 2005, when David Mwiraria, the then Minister for finance, read in his 2005/2006 budget that an allocation of Kshs. 1 billion had been allocated for the VP’s house. This brought on outrage by civil society and Kenyans, who rightly said that a billion was too much to spend on a house. The Prime Minister, Raila Odinga stepped in to clarify that actually only Kshs. 197 Million had been allocated for the house.
The official residence in Karen is as grand as one would expect an African VP to live in. It has an Olympic size pool, gazebo, and manicured grounds – the highest level of finishing possible. A project of this nature is only cost-effective if it is completed right on time, because input costs, like the costs of cement, water, energy, labour and machinery increase (rarely decrease) over time. With the allocation of the money by treasury, a company called Dimken Construction Company Ltd. was awarded the contract to build the house.
In August 2009, Dimken was found to have missed a number of deadlines and to have used lower standard materials and therefore was effectively fired by the government. Whereas Kenyans might expect the company to have faced some sanction or penalty, it was declared bankrupt for owing Equity Bank Kshs. 197 million, which it received as advance performance guarantees to the Ministry of Public Works in 2006. After Dimken defaulted, the bank had to pay the Ministry what it had spent.
The contract was then awarded to another company, Itabuild Construction Company at an increased cost of Kshs. 383 Million. The reasons given are that the costs of steel and other inputs had increased. At double the cost, one expects that the project would be complete quickly – especially as PS Lonyangapuo said that only finishing’s and windows in the main house had been incomplete.
“If the VP did not have a house, we could tell him to move in as we complete the remaining work,” said Lonyangapuo.
Needless to say, the project continues to unfold in starts and stops with different excuses being given for the slow progress. The time has come for Kenyans to draw a line in the sand and declare that the project must now be finished. Surely, the VP should spend at least some of the time left before he either moves into State House or moves back to Syekulu?
Speaking of State House, within the State House compound, there is an official residence that was used in the past for the Office of the Chief Justice that is opposite the State House Girls High School on State House road. which is an inappropriate allocation since the judiciary cannot be housed within the executive’s compound. The last Chief Justice to have lived there was Sir Alfred Henry Simpson who served between 1967 and 1971.
Why wasn’t this house allocated to the Vice President as his official residence? Even if it had needed refurnishing and renovation, might that not have cost less than the Karen house? In these times when we struggle to feed our people, perhaps we need to make more strenuous effort to tone down on our excesses.