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Water authority boss Geoffrey Sang arrested in DCI swoop

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VINCENT ACHUKA

By VINCENT ACHUKA
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Detectives from the Serious Crimes Department on Friday dramatically arrested National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (NWHSA) acting CEO Geoffrey Sang at the parastatal’s office in Industrial Area, Nairobi.

They carted away documents from his office and from the procurement department before whisking him away to the headquarters of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) along Kiambu Road.

Reached for comment on the matter, NWHSA’s chair Erick Okeyo said he had not been briefed about the reasons for the arrest.

“Detectives visited our offices but I have not been briefed about the allegations. I have been chairman for only one month,” he said.

But sources at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) revealed that Mr Sang’ was arrested after a probe into the Naku’etum Peace Dam that was to be built in Turkana.

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The DCI has been probing the matter for the last three months. According to investigators, the project was a scandal all along.

From the onset, the dam that was supposed to create peace between warring communities in the vast and arid Turkana County was designed to line up the pockets of a few top government officials given the responsibility of managing Kenya’s scarce water resources.

Apart from an irregularly award, top officials at NWHSA pushed for the project through an advisory opinion that was only meant to get the government to release the Sh231 million, not to benefit the people of Turkana.

Additionally the authority’s chief legal advisor, who had advised against the project, refused to sign the tender document.

However, NWHSA’s top management still pushed for the project to go on.

Early this year, top officials at NWHSA sat on the fifth floor of their offices along Dunga Road in Industrial Area, Nairobi.

On the table was a plan to construct a dam in Turkana. There was a good reason too; lack of water has been identified as one of the key reasons of conflict in Turkana.

But the budget was scaled from Sh1.5 billion to Sh3.5 billion. They even gave the dam a name ‘Naku’etum Peace Dam’ and allocated Sh231,114,402.64 to the project.

A tender number NWHSA/ONT/007/2019-20 was floated and firms invited to apply.

The project was supposed to see the construction of an 18-metre dam made of clay core and shell materials, with a water inlet and a delivery steel pipeline of a 200mm diameter and a length of 500 metres.

It was also supposed to have communal water points and three cattle troughs.

Then detectives got wind of the irregularities and began a probe.

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“You are encouraged to visit and examine the site of the Works and its surroundings, and obtain all information that may be necessary for preparing the tender. The responsibility, risk and cost of visiting the Site shall be at your own expense,” said the tender.

But there was a small problem. The NWHSA at that time had been a theatre of conflict driven by hunger for money and tenders turning its top office into a revolving door.

Mr Sang had been picked by Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelgui when he was still in the water Ministry to take over from Sammy Mburu.

Mr Mburu, who was late last year picked to be CEO in acting capacity, was just a stone’s throw away from getting the position on a full time basis but his past deeds at Lake Victoria Water Services Board came to haunt him. The DCI ordered his arrest.

Engineer Mburu was an employee of Lake Victoria Water Services Agency who had been deployed at NWHA to serve as the acting CEO.

With him out of the way, Mr Chelgui picked Mr Sang to act as the CEO until an announcement for a new head of the agency was made.

That announcement came towards the end of last month through an advertisement in the dailies.

“The appointment will be for a contractual period of three years renewable once for a similar period of time subject to satisfactory performance and delivery of targets and outcomes set by the Board,” said the announcement made on March 23.

“All applicants must provide appropriate evidence of experience (letters of appointment and promotion) and provide valid documents required to satisfy the requirements of Chapter Six of the Constitution of Kenya 2010,” it said.

That was just three days after President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed a former security guard, Erick Okeyo, as chairperson of the NWHSA board.

Mr Okeyo had, before his appointment to the water body, risen to become the CEO of Bedrock Security Services after serving as a security guard in various firms.

Unknown to Mr Okeyo, the DCI had, for three months before his appointment, been looking at the transactions and tenders of NWHSA.

The authority was established in 2016 with an aim of launching national public works for water storage and flood control.

It is also mandated with undertaking strategic emergency drought mitigation.





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