The government has terminated a multi-million-shilling contract awarded for construction of the 15,000-acre Bachuma Livestock Export Processing Zone (LEPZ) in Voi sub-county in Taita-Taveta County after the contractor consistently failed to meet the set deadlines for completion of the project.
The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives Peter Munya said the contractor had already been issued with a default notice over the project.
The CS was speaking at Bachuma in Voi on Wednesday during a verification tour to assess the status of the long-delayed project that started in early 2015.
A visibly upset Munya said the contractor had not done any single work since last year in June despite funds being released for the project.
“There is no excuse at all on what this project should be as it is,” he said.
He rubbished the contractor’s claims that part of the reason for project delays was the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic started in March. We are talking about works not done from as far way back as June 2019. What have you been doing?” asked the CS.
The CS was accompanied by Principal Secretary for Livestock Harry Kimutai, Head of Presidential Delivery Unit Andrew Wakahiu and several senior officers from the ministry.
The CS further said severe action will be taken against government officials who supervised the project stating they were also to blame for not putting pressure on the contractor.
“We had our own officer who was to make sure the project was completed on time. Action will also be taken against such people,” he said.
The contractor and the works officer were whisked away by police for questioning.
Bachuma’s LEPZ, is one of Jubilee Government flagship projects that has gobbled millions of shillings but remains incomplete to date. Once completed, the project is expected bolster Kenya’s a strategic position as a player in global livestock market.
According to the work documents, the project was designed in two phases. The first phase was contracted for Sh 114 million and started on March 2015. It was expected to be completed on May 2019 but remains 95 per cent complete. Already, the contractor has pocketed Sh 98.4 million for works done.
The second phase was contracted at Sh 257.1 million. The project started on April 2016 and was expected to end in November 2019. Already, the contractor has been paid Sh 131.6 million with project being classified as 50 per cent complete.
Mr. Munya said it was very disappointing that time was lost since June last year yet the government had paid the contractor.
“We have just confirmed what our reports have been saying. We have authorized the contractor and his team to stop working because there is no need to pretend there is anything going on here,” he said.
The termination of contract signals the government’s intention to crack down on rogue contractors who are blamed for delaying vital projects.
Since the project inception, top government officials including former agriculture CS’s Willy Bett and Mwangi Kiunjuri have toured the facility to check on the progress. During the visits, the contractor was put on spot for inordinate delay which was adversely affecting Kenya’s entry into world livestock market.
In what is a pointer to the huge significance and interest the government has on the project, President Uhuru Kenyatta personally toured the facility in 2018 on a discreet visit. He was accompanied by the former Chief of Defense Forces Samson Mwathethe.
Currently, the project works are on 200-acres where the most critical infrastructure will be installed. They include quarantines zones, screening sections, loading bays, incinerators, laboratories and staff houses.
Munya said the livestock potential in Kenya was enormous. He pointed out that the value of cattle without their by-products like leather could easily top over sh100 billion.
“This is the kind of money for the country we are talking about. When such strategic facilities remain incomplete due to laxity of people involved, the country losses a lot,” he said.
Bachuma LEPZ will process all livestock intended for export market. This, experts, say will enhance quality and ensure that Kenya consistently meets the international standards for export beef. The project’s proximity to the port of Mombasa, Nairobi-Mombasa Highway and the SGR is also a big boost for ease of movement for the animals.
Initially, the 200-acre will hold between 7,000 and 9,000 herds of cattle. When complete, the 15,000-acres will hold 100,000 herds of cattle for export.