Under construction for 30 years: Government office is Kenya’s oldest building site

There was anger in Kenya last month when it emerged that a government agency could risk a lawsuit after terminating a contract to complete a new office building that has been under construction for 30 years.

A newspaper editorial railed against "official apathy", and blamed a "cabal of well-placed officials" for either making personal gains from what has been dubbed "Kenya’s oldest construction site", or for just not caring what the public thinks.

The building, New Mitihani House, has long been planned as a new location for the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC).

But the final phase, begun in 2013, was only 59% complete when in March this year KNEC terminated the $14.6m contract it had awarded to Ongata Works Limited.

KNEC had already paid Ongata Works $8m, Kenya’s Auditor-General Edward Ouko informed parliament in May, Business Daily reported. 

He said KNEC risks a lawsuit over that termination.

"Management has not provided a roadmap on how it intends to complete the project," Ouko said in a qualified audit opinion. "In the circumstances, the delays in completion will lead to cost escalation and stakeholders may not get value for their resources if this project is not completed and put to its intended purpose."

In an editorial, Business Daily called the affair "outrageous", noting that taxpayers’ money is being spent on interest on late payments. 

"In short," the editorial said, "echoes of official apathy ring through the 30 years of this contract. A cabal of well-placed officials is either making personal gains from the sluggish process or they simply don’t care what the public thinks."

In July 2016, MPs summoned three cabinet secretaries over the failure to complete New Mitihani House. Then-acting KNEC chief executive Mercy Karogo complained of underfunding for the scheme, and told MPs that it faced project management challenges. She said the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development was in charge.

In January 2018, Auditor-General Edward Ouko said the cost of the building had increased 15 times.

Image: Under construction for 30 years: New Mitihani House in September 2018 (Kenya National Examinations Council)

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