No end to rogue contractors, as sugarcane farmers cry foul.
Posted by African Press International on August 23, 2012
- By Reporter in Nairobi,
Despite the recent signing into law, the National Construction Authority Act, by the president that seeks to regulate the building and construction industry by setting up the National Construction agency (NCA) to oversee the sector-charged with registering and accrediting contractors and regulating their activities, the move still appears to be an elusive task and far from being realized.
Sugarcane growers and residents of Kakamega County are up in arms over a Kisumu based contractor for having allegedly done shoddy work: for the construction of culverts which was meant to serve and facilitate cane farmers in accessing their huge chunks of farms, during the period of cultivation, harvesting and transportation of their canes.
Maurice Omondi of GOGNI RAJOPE group of companies headquartered in the lakeside city of Kisumu, and with branches in other major towns, who “won” the tender last year April through one of their sister companies,WADICH construction and engineering company, was tasked with the building of culverts of KWABA area to the tune of over Kshs 4.5 million.
And it was among the nine projects which also included the building of bridges and access roads in the western sugar belt funded by National Sugar Development Fund (NSDF), through Kenya Sugar Board (KSB).The projects kicked off June, same year.
Speaking to a legion of reporters, the angered farmers, who have vowed to take to the streets to protest against the contractor for non performance which has hampered their farming activities thus leading to hefty financial loses, are now questioning the criteria that was applied that earned Omondi and its company the tender and yet he doesn’t harbour the requisite technical prowess and monetary capacity to do a work, of such magnitude.
Threatening unspecified legal action if the relevant authorities fail to crack the whip, the fire spitting farmers now wants the NCA as an authority which is also tasked with promoting professionalism by ensuring that only trained contractors, construction workers, and site supervisors are registered, to invoke its act and blacklist him, saying the contractor is associated with a spate of dubious work in different parts of the country “We will soon move to court if the work is not redone and completed to our satisfaction” said the relentless farmers.
Ahead of court action, the enraged farmers and other stakeholders in the industry, are reportedly planning to lead a high-powered delegation to the ministries of agriculture and roads to petition Hon. Sally Kosgey and Franklin Bett respectively, to address their myriad grievances over the besieged contractor whom they say has been, not only eluding them, but also evading the taxman over alleged non-remittances of taxes amounting to millions of shillings, running to years.
In an earlier interview with some professional contractors, who are registered engineers and also members of Architectural Association of Kenya, read from the same script with the farmers and expressed their disgruntlement with the contractor whom they strongly loathed his works and behaviours saying that he is a perennial disgrace to their fraternity, worth deregistration, since he rarely honours his contractual obligations “we strongly concur with the farmers’ move, its long overdue” they said, demanding for thorough audit, into their umbrella body to weed out the quacks.
The Act states that, a person shall not carry out the duties of a contractor unless that person is registered by the board to be established under new law. In case of a firm registration can only be given if at least one of the partners or directors possesses the qualifications, technical skills, or experience prescribed by the board. The Act further states that any person who decides to operate as a contractor without registration “commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh 1million”, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
Any contractor too found guilty of unprofessional misconduct will also face the same consequences. Failure also by the contractor to discharge duties, responsibilities and obligations shall have his or her names expunged from the register and shall not be registered afresh under any other new name.
Sources privy to the mother company, Gogni Rajope’ mode of operations, which also owns and runs CEABUD, RADO and HANRAJ among other chains of companies, revealed that procurement procedures were flouted with impunity during the tendering and subsequent award of the tender (read single sourcing).
That these outfits will hardly win any tender fairly and they ever, allegedly thrive on greasing the hands of the prospective procurement officials and tender board committees to land cream tenders, both locally and internationally. The art, which they say, have been indisputably perfected, per- excellence.
And in a bid to execute their well orchestrated clandestine deals in advance, they book state-of-the-art hotels, far away from the hawkeyed interested parties for the officials to put up, where the cartel covertly converges with them over special finger- licking foodstuff, to strategize on how to canvass, compromise and bag the contracts-pre or post the advertisement of the tender.
At the centre stage of this racket, that allegedly deprives other competent firms’ contracts unjustifiably, is the notorious Omondi of WADICH Company in question, who is assigned with nosing for the tenders, flapping and hawking the profiles of these companies.
And to achieve this effectively, all their bids, will always find their ways into the tender box, after the advertisements “to compete” for the awards, alongside other unsuspecting competent bidders (contractors), who only bided for one.
Something, that the contractor, when approached for verification, vehemently denied and instead advised this writer to go ahead and publish the story: “ You can go and write whatever you want I don’t bother whether you are president or prime minister” He yelled, waving cigarette stick and directing smoke, to a battery of journalists.
And a spot check at the site of the work, confirms some of the allegations since the workmanship is very poor, yet to be fully done and it’s past the stipulated timeline, with the areas already “completed” dilapidating at alarming rate “He is ever drunk and rough even to us whenever we dare raise our concern over some poorly done areas” regretted some dozen of the hapless construction workers, glued at the site waiting for their meager dues, adding that he hardly pays.
Independent sources from KSB reliably averred that the contractor, out of the total fee earmarked for the tender, has been paid a whooping ksh 3.5million in two phases, with the deficit being over ksh 1million and yet the work done so far is not reflective.
Owing to the unfolding dossier unmasking these outfits underworld activities, which flies in the face of the procurement rules, regulations and procedures, its also worth noting that the quintet companies which are now under spotlight, are currently engaged in a string of works across the country, further raising eyebrows whether they were awarded fairly or not.
According to knowledgeable inner sources, all the companies are the brainchild of one of the topnotch engineer who is said to be the proprietor and elder brother to the alleged cowboy contractor and, with a well networked syndicate buttressing across the boarders, hence according credence as to why they recently clinched a lucrative tender in southern Sudan for the construction of the road, among other plum jobs, to the chagrin of other potential lowest bidders.
The farmers move comes hot on the heels of the recent remaks, in some cross-section of the press, by the minister of public works Hon. Chris Obure that the NCA law will be implemented to the letter and, further read the riot act to the rogue contractors that the law will be slapped unto them, since their days are numbered.
The authority is also charged with, among other things, researching on any matter relating to the construction industry, promoting quality assurance as well as encouraging standardization and improvement of construction techniques and materials. It will also develop and publish a code of conduct for the industry.