Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui has said he is neither being investigated nor involved in any dams’ scandal.
While detectives had told the Sunday Nation that Mr Chelugui was one of the Cabinet Secretaries to be quizzed over the abandoned Itare dam in Nakuru County, which had been contracted to CMC di Ravenna – an Italian firm at the heart of investigations over the two Elgeyo Marakwet county dams – Mr Chelugui said the Itare dam tender was done before he became a CS and he had nothing to do with it.
“By the time I joined the ministry in April 2018, the project was already facing challenges. I first visited that site in October 2018 and I don’t know why my name continues to be drawn into this saga,” he said.
The CS said that by the time he was sworn in on February 16, 2018, the Itare dam contract had already been awarded two years earlier and as such, he did not understand why the Directorate of Criminal Investigations had been telling the media that the CS was under investigations.
“I have never been questioned by the DCI and neither have officers from the Rift Valley Water Services Board,” he said. “I only read your stories that I will be quizzed.”
While several Cabinet Secretaries among them Treasury’s Henry Rotich, Devolution’s Eugene Wamalwa and Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri have been questioned, Mr Chelugui has not been questioned over any dam.
“I only read in the papers that I am being investigated. I have not done anything on Itare dam unless (the DCI) wants to investigate the office,” he says. “Again, ministers do not award tenders and unless he is interfering with the process he has very little role.”
The CS said that he has “done nothing wrong” on Itare dam and his efforts had been to try and rescue the project from total collapse. “I found Itare dam in the ICU. If it had any infection, that happened before I came to the ministry,” he said in a phone interview.
Mr Chelugui says that so far, he has several options on the table over the Itare dam but cashing the performance bond is not an immediate one.
“We cannot act erratically on that. This is because there are rights for both employer and the contractor and we do not want to be embroiled in court cases,” he says.
The minister says when he took over the ministry, advance payments had been paid to the Italian firm and there is risk that all that investment could go down the drain unless they act cautiously.
“From where I sit, I take responsibility for what happened from the time I took office and I cannot answer questions on what happened when I was not here,” says the CS.
The minister says at the moment, Itare is one of his main challenges since terminating the contract will be an expensive exercise. The minister said they had secured all the machinery at the site and that all the bank securities are still in place.
Controversy has rocked multi-billion-shilling dam projects being constructed separately by the ministries of Energy, Water, Agriculture and Regional Development. “There is an emerging narrative that all these dams are under my ministry, which is not true,” he says.
Asked whether he has called the DCI George Kinoti over the issue, the CS said, “No…I will wait for his call because we are all government officers.”