Kenya's Most Authoritative Political Newspaper

Citizen Weekly

Sunday 19 October 2014


East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism cabinet secretary Phyllis Kandie has found herself between a rock and a hard place over a Sh50 billion upgrading project at the Bomas of Kenya. Bomas chief executive officer Ahmed Quaresh is said to have been caught unawares when the project was initiated. The two are at secret war with the CS openly out to frustrate the CEO and have a person to manipulate during the implementation of the mega development.
Kandie is also out to control activities at the Tourism Fund which is constructing headquarters along Valley Road. A number of firms engaged among them Ujenzi Consultants are feeling the heat from powerbrokers. Not spared is the Tourism Fund CEO who those close to the powers that be are lobbying to have him removed on grounds he is a Cord sympathiser.
The principal secretary is also said to have kept in darkness Ibrahim Mohammed who is sympathetic to Bomas CEO Quaresh and is his godfather in the ministry.
According to well versed sources, there is more than meets the eye with the plan to transform the Bomas of Kenya into Africa’s biggest convention centre and which after upgrade will be known as the Bomas International Conference and Exhibition Centre afoot. The project is targetted as a cash cow by certain wheeler dealers in Jubilee.
 Kandie has been sucked into the deal with highly flying Chinese billionaires with political links out to control the construction industry. They are said to enjoy protection from the office of the deputy president.
Sources say Kandie is under instruction to have a Chinese firm with roots in Jubilee land the contract as Kazungu Kambi did with NSSF one even after Cotu and FKE were opposed. Of late, Chinese firms have been fighting over lucrative construction contracts.
Chinese firms winning lucrative tenders are at the centre of discussion. China Jiangxi International whose works at NSSF is under probe by the Parliament’s Public Investments Committee. PIC found that each of the five real estate development contracts awarded to the Chinese company was varied by about Sh100 million from the original bid prices.
It was the same China Jiangxi International (K) Ltd that is involved Tassia II NSFF project.
The big question now is the relationship between NSSF and China Jiangxi and is now said that there is more than meets the eye and a suspect. The same company directors led by a one Tonny are set to land the Bomas project according to our sources.
The company is to have perfected in the game of giving hefty kickbacks as compared to the local contractors and that could be the reason why they win most of the lucrative tenders.
It is against this background that a behind-the-scene war has broken out between local and foreign contractors over the control of the multi-billion shillings’ building and construction sector in Kenya.
They have local brokers who use every trick to flout tendering procedures.
Chinese Company that features is China Wu Yi.
Kandie is said to be under pressure from powerbrokers just like Managing Trustee Richard Lang’at and Kambi were during the controversial multibillion NSSF tenders.
Just like the controversial Hazina Towers extension project being undertaken by NSSF, the Bomas project will use Public-Private Partnership program. The plan is to transform Bomas to be in the model of South Africa’s Cape Town International Convention Centre.
According to the proposal, the multi-billion project is designed to be a major hospitality facility that will increase bed capacity to cope with anticipated rise in the number of tourists visiting the country.
Top on the agenda is to expand bed capacity by 2,000 rooms by 2017. If the proposals go on as planned, then the new Bomas International Convention and Exhibition Centre is expected to rival the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
We have since discovered that the government has already invited local and international firms to bid for participation in the project. The project has been split into two parts with the first that is the construction of the conference and exhibition centre that will be financed by government but run by a management firm.
The second part will be the construction of a shopping mall and five hotels that will be done by private investments on land provided by the government. According to the ministry’s plans, the investors for phase II will be allocated Special Lease Use for the proposed project.
Initially, we have gathered that the centre was to consist of presidential and VIP pavilions, coffee shops, five luxury hotels with 2,000 bed capacity, conference centre with a capacity of hosting 10,000 delegates in one sitting, 15,000 exhibition space, fully furnished apartments, business centres as well as other social amenities. The hotels were to range from two-star to seven-star.
Tenders calling on investors to partner with the government in a major upgrade of the Bomas of Kenya have been cancelled only 24 days after they were advertised. It is not known why they were cancelled but industry players say the aim is to have certain firms win the lucrative project.
At one time, the project was rocked by controversies and had to be halted to allow for wider consultations between Kandie’s office and the stakeholders. Trouble for Kandie began when members of the civil society and other Kenyans registered their opposition to the project.
To fire the first salvo was the renowned constitutional lawyer Prof Yash Pal Ghai who once wrote to the Bomas general manager asking whether the planned developments had been subjected to public consultation and participation and whether there has been an environmental impact assessment on how biodiversity will be affected.
Kandie’s office first put up adverts in the dailies on December 23 2013 through the directorate of Tourism of the ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism. The advert called on firms to express their interest to carry out the feasibility study, design, construct and commission the projects.
However, on January 16 2014, the Request for Expression of Interest was cancelled through an advertisement in the dailies without giving any reason. It is said the project has too many legal loopholes.
The firms were expected to collect the Expression of Interest document within 60 days from December 23 2013 and be returned not later than February 21 2014 at 1200hours.
Despite the controversy, sources say ground breaking for the Bomas International Convention and Exhibition Centre could take place early next year if an ongoing feasibility study for the project is completed in time.
As things stand now, the project may end up in courts. Insiders say, those out to make a kill want it started well before the next elections and is part of the scheme to raise money for 2017 polls.
The project is said to have caught the eyes of a number of parliamentary committee. One is the Public Accounts Committee led by Ababu Namwamba and Public Investment of Adan Keynan. The tourism industry is under the parliamentary committee of Finance, Planning and Trade Committee. It deals with all matters pertaining to public finance, monetary policies, public debt, financial institutions, investment and divestiture policies, pricing policies, banking, insurance, population, revenue policies, planning, national development, trade, tourism promotion and management, commerce and industry. The chairman is Benjamin Lagat and vice-chair is Nelson Gaichuhie (TNA)

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