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Fights rock airport board over contract

Thursday August 23 2012

Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director Engineer Stephen Gichuki (left) and the General Manager Procurement, Allan Muturi (right) while appearing before the joint committees on Finance, Planning, Trade and Transport on August 23, 2012. PHOTO / SALATON NJAU

Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director Engineer Stephen Gichuki (left) and the General Manager Procurement, Allan Muturi (right) while appearing before the joint committees on Finance, Planning, Trade and Transport on August 23, 2012. PHOTO / SALATON NJAU Nation Media Group

By GRIFFINS OMWENGA [email protected]

Boardroom wars at the Kenya Airports Authority over the construction of a new airport intensified on Thursday after a fall-out between board chairman Martin Wambora and managing director Stephen Gichuki.

Mr Wambora called for a board meeting at a time when Mr Gichuki appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating why Transport minister Amos Kimunya ordered the cancellation of the Sh55 billion tender.

The new airport is to be built adjacent to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

It would be separate from the current Terminal Four expansion works and is designed to place Jomo Kenyatta in a position to compete with Ethiopian, Rwandese and South African airports.

But as Mr Wambora called the meeting to discuss the airport, known as Greenfield Project, Mr Gichuki claimed that the meeting had not been properly convened.

He said the law required that a board meeting was convened by the chairman in consultation with the chief executive.

But Mr Wambora said he had followed the law in convening the meeting.

When Mr Gichuki appeared at the inquiry on Thursday, MPs Chris Okemo and Jakoyo Midiwo asked him to explain whether all the procedures of procurement had been followed.

“You have boxed the country into procuring services from China. I see a tailor-made process to get a Chinese company to do the work,” said Mr Okemo.

Documents tabled before the committee show that the board cited Sh42 billion as the tender price whereas in their correspondences the management says the project would cost Sh55 billion.

“Which law did you use to vary the tender price?” asked Mr Midiwo.

According to documents tabled before the committee, the board also resolved in February that the management should exit from the Greenfield project so that the process can start afresh as had earlier been advised by the Transport ministry.

Mr Gichuki told the inquiry that they had not flouted any law because the Transport ministry, the Attorney-General and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission had cleared the procurement process.

In his letter, the Attorney-General had indicated that if the tender was cancelled the bidder may seek damages.

The Chinese company has already gone to the Public Procurement Appeals Board over the intention to cancel the tender.

Some members of the inquiry, however, warned that taxpayers were bound to lose millions of shillings if the tender was cancelled due to damages that would be pursued by contractors.