Low cost county road plans hit by quality concerns

Thursday February 4 2016

Transport Principal Secretary John Mosonik

Transport Principal Secretary John Mosonik (centre) with Kenya Ferry Services managing director Musa Hassan left in Mombasa on October 28, 2015. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JAMES KARIUKI
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Multi-million road contracts dished out to private contractors by county governments are in jeopardy after the central government warned against use of alternative low cost technology.

Terming the ongoing contracts as suspect, Transport and Infrastructure Principal Secretary Engineer Mosonik said his ministry will not hesitate to penalize any county government official who fails to heed his directive that no road should be constructed without the ministry’s involvement.

The move comes even as Embu County government inked an agreement with Probase Kenya, a Malaysian firm that has pledged to use low cost technology to tarmac public roads across the county at a cost of Sh388 million.

Initial works will see the Embu-Kibugu Market road measuring 12.5 km tarmacked with plans afoot to complete the 100km ringroad underway.

Engineer Mosonik urged county governments already using alternative methods to repair public roads to revert to approved standards and materials within the next fourteen days adding any departure must receive prior approval from the ministry.

“Some county governments have received proposals for financing, construction and maintenance of public roads from contractors using unapproved standards and imported products which have not been approved even in their country of origin.”

The PS expressed fears that public funds could be lost to unscrupulous contractors who deliberately misinterpreted facts to influence procurement adding that all county governments must revert to approved standards provided by the ministry where only qualified personnel, contractors and consultants should be engaged.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

“Any county governments planning to use alternative methods must engage the ministry which will offer technical assistance upon request. As of now, none of the proprietary products currently being promoted for use in stabilisation of soils for road pavements construction has been approved for use in public road works even in their countries of origin,” he said.

Approved technology makes a kilometre of roadworks costs run upto Sh70 million but the low cost technology promoted by Probase Kenya reduces the cost to Sh23 million.

At the same time, the Malaysian government has given the Meru County Government a Sh880 million loan to fund the construction of 300 kilometres of roads in its nine sub-counties.

Engineer Mosonik said that there exists approved standards that are in use including testing of materials, design (manuals and guidelines), standard construction specifications, road maintenance standards and standards on performance monitoring.

Currently, several county governments have engaged private contractors to construct tarmac public roads using alternative low cost technology.

Interestingly, the Meru roads project is being implemented by the National Youth Service road engineering team.

The Malaysian firm uses a soil stabiliser and strengthener, soil hardener, soil sealant, asphalt and binder which the ministry says have not been approved for use in road construction.

The Meru project has also attracted interest from Trans-Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba, Martin Wambora (Embu), Nadhif Jama (Garissa), Samuel Ragwa (Tharaka-Nithi), Ukur Yattani (Marsabit) and Moses Akaranga (Vihiga).