Ruto house upgrade to cost Kenyans Sh100m

Saturday June 29 2013

The Deputy President's official residence in Karen Nairobi. The government will refurbish the official residence of Deputy President William Ruto in works which will cost taxpayers upwards of Sh100 million. PHOTO: SALATON NJAU

The Deputy President's official residence in Karen Nairobi. The government will refurbish the official residence of Deputy President William Ruto in works which will cost taxpayers upwards of Sh100 million. PHOTO: SALATON NJAU 

By SUNDAY NATION REPORTER [email protected]

The government will refurbish the official residence of Deputy President William Ruto in works which will cost taxpayers upwards of Sh100 million, the Sunday Nation can reveal.

According to tender documents released last week, the new changes to improve the finishing of the imposing structure in the prestigious Karen neighbourhood of Nairobi will raise the total construction cost of the residence, which was inaugurated barely eight months ago, from Sh400 million to Sh500 million.

Then Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka was the first tenant but he did not have much time to spend in the complex as he had to vacate the compound soon after the Cord coalition lost the March 4 elections.

Initially, the refurbishment was projected to cost nearly Sh200 million, but it is said to have been scaled down to around Sh100 million after some components were removed. One such component was bullet proof windows which were left out on cost considerations.

The Sh100 million budget is a conservative estimate based on the scale of the works involved but the companies which have been invited to bid may pitch a higher amount once the process is complete.

News of the refurbishment is likely to generate debate among Kenyans considering that the complex is newly built and the fact that the government is currently reeling under the weight of demands for higher pay from public sector workers.

The latest group to go on strike are teachers in public schools. Their boycott enters the second week Monday.

Tender letters

Tenders inviting companies to bid for the project went out last week. The tender letters were privately offered to 10 companies in a process known as “restricted tendering” which does not involve public advertising.

The tender documents are expected to be returned on Friday July 5, with renovation work scheduled to begin in August.  The winners will be expected to finish construction in three months so that the Deputy President can move into the facility by the end of the year.

Key components of the work on the building are the installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras around the compound and the building of an electric fence. The residence is guarded by elite General Service Unit (GSU) officers and is adjacent to a military installation on Karen South Road in Nairobi.

Although the building was completed in September last year and inaugurated two months later, the main house has remained vacant.  Mr Ruto, who was elected Deputy President in March, is yet to move in and only uses the offices and gym facilities there, like his predecessor, Mr Musyoka did. “The initial estimate was downsized because of costs.

However, the residence is supposed to be constructed to his taste and style. That is why he has taken a keen interest,” said a source who spoke to the Sunday Nation on condition of anonymity.

“I do not think he intends to permanently reside there. Once in a while, yes, he will use the building especially when he has visitors,” stated the source.

Among the companies invited to bid for the contract are city construction firms NK Brothers and Epco Builders. Iltalbuild Imports, which completed the house in 2008, is not among them.

The tender documents show that works will be done in the sitting room, bedrooms and offices.  Mr Ruto wants the size of windows reduced, an apparent compromise after the bullet proof glasses proposal was shelved. The windows delayed completion of the house last year when the Parliamentary Accounts Committee was told that they had to be imported from China.

“The initial proposal was to have bullet proof windows in these rooms but the idea was dropped because of the cost involved,” stated our source.

The construction work will also cover floor finish in the sitting room, main lounge, bedrooms and the Deputy President’s office reception area.  While the reception will be fitted with a carpet, the rest will have timber blocks.

“The floor finish in the sitting, main lounge and bedroom areas will be done using timber blocks.”

Inside the main house, the contractors will remove the existing flash doors and replace them with hard-wood panel mahogany doors. 

The tender documents show that the tiles around the swimming pool will be changed from ceramics to Mazeras, a rough stone.

Contractors will also be expected to construct shades around the parking area. However, a proposal to increase parking area for visitors was shelved.

The Chief of Staff in the Deputy President’s office, Ms Sheila Keittany, and the director of administration, Mr Abdul Mwasera, led the team that met officials from the Public Works ministry who will supervise the construction. Mr Ruto is said to have attended the first few planning meetings.

It is expected that the Deputy President’s office will foot the cost of furnishing the house when construction is completed.

The Sunday Nation also established that one of the masionettes earmarked for the caretaker in the compound will be refurbished and converted into an office for the Deputy President’s wife, Mrs Rachel Ruto.

Last week, Mrs Ruto hosted First Lady Margaret Kenyatta at the residence.

“The Deputy President seems to like the place. He goes to the gym there and uses his office before driving to town,” the source said.

It is expected that the offices will eventually be expanded to accommodate more staff from the deputy President’s office. Currently, the residence is fully fledged with secretaries, security personnel, procurement officers, finance and human resource people.

The main house has a master bedroom en suite, four bedrooms, family room with a kitchen, study room and a private room. It has a covered drive way, two lounges, dining room, kitchen and breakfast area, a two bedroomed guest house,  three servants quarters, swimming pool and laundry area. It also has a fully equipped gym with a sauna and jacuzzi.

The residence has been dogged by controversy since inception. Construction started in 2005 when Mr Moody Awori was vice president. Then the government considered constructing the residence around Lavington and Muthaiga areas before settling on Karen. The land on Karen South road initially belonged to the military.

In 2006, tenders were floated at a projected budget of Sh179 million. Dimken Kenya won the tender. It was projected that Dimken Kenya would complete construction in 2007.

However, the work stalled and the contractor was kicked out for non-performance. By then, the company had been paid Sh70 million. The contract was cancelled on October 21, 2008 and awarded to Italbuild Imports for Sh383 million. 

Mr Kalonzo Musyoka was vice-president when work restarted in 2008. The new contractor was asked to add new staff houses, security houses, and caretakers house. He demolished defective works and redesigned sections of the main house. Construction was eventually completed in September last year and the residence handed to Mr Musyoka. 

President Kibaki officially opened the house on November 15, last year and Mr Musyoka opted to use the office space only. The new plan for renovation means Kenyans will spend yet more money on a project which has proved a major drain to taxpayers.