The Kenya Railways has splashed millions in a local daily to respond to Sh1 billion spent on Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) grass lawns.
Through a press statement in the Daily Nation, a whole page has been set aside with responses to various allegations that had been established by the newspaper in regards to the cost and expenditure used on the SGR.
The column is dubbed “Response To Allegations On Standard Gauge Railway Project”.
“Our attention has been drawn to news articles published by Daily Nation on February 25 and 26 with headlines Pillars of Greed and Chinese SGR Staff lived large at Kenyan’s cost…” reads part of the statement.
The statement adds,” Based on the severity of the allegations, and the interest of transparency in the contractual obligations during the execution of the Mombasa to Nairobi SGR (Phase1), we hereby wish to respond to the claims based with reference…”
The local daily had reported that Sh1 billion was spent on SGR grass lawns and additional Sh239 million on the entertainment of Chinese workers.
For instance, it was established that the SGR which turned out to be one of the most expensive projects resulting in increased debts by the government detailed exorbitant use of public funds.
The expenditure breakdown detailed that the lead engineer in the SGR project used at least Sh5 million to cater for airtime for a period of three years.
He was also accorded the privilege where he was supplied with furniture for his office at a cost of Sh57 million with each of his computers estimated to have been purchased at Sh280,000 per computer while the laserjet printers in his office cost Sh513,700.
The lead engineer’s personal residence was also reported to have been furnished at a cost of Sh3 million, with the total money spent on entertaining the Chinese costing Sh239 million in three years.
Other exaggerated expenditures included purchasing of portable radios at Sh119,100, digital recorders at Sh341,500 against the normal price of Sh2,000 locally.
However, in their defense through the statement signed by Kenya Railways Managing Director Philip Mainga, the quoted funds were exaggerated and not a reflection of how things were run.
For instance, the Sh1 billion spent on grass lawns is explained in that according to the Railway and Road Design Standards, embankment slopes are required to be protected by either grassing or herringbone slope protection.
“The Bills of Quantity for SGR (Phase 1) provided for 3,029,734 soiling and grassing along the entire subgrade section (450 Km) of the SGR from Mombasa and not Station areas alone. This was to be done at a rate of KES 360 per m2 (inclusive of top soiling, grassing and watering), which is relatively competitive as per the market rates for slope works,” reads the response.
The Sh5 million said to have been spent on airtime apparently was distributed among all staff for a period of 3 years.
In response to the allegations that the majority of the construction materials were imported from China, the statement details that commercial partners were substantiated with 1,000 local suppliers of equipment, materials, and machinery.
Ideally, it documents that during the period of SGR phase one construction, 46,000 local jobs were created with an average of 20,000 local staff as compared to 2,247 Chinese workers.
The response also accounts that during the construction period, a number of community projects along the railway line were created including drilling of boreholes, constructing water supply projects, rehabilitation schools and building of roads.