When Jimmy Kiio, a 64 year old resident from Kangonde village, Masinga Central ward informed Machakos County Commissioner Esther Maina they had only given her a standing ovation out of respect but not out of sincerity during a public baraza, his sentiments caught the attention of everyone present.
Kiio then went on to tell the senior administrator who was leading a County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee (CDICC) for an inspection tour of the Kwa Mwangi Kangonde water pan that residents attending the forum were actually mourning.
“With all due to respect madam County Commissioner, we should be mourning following the shoddy work that was done on this dam. Today is a very sad day for residents of Kangonde village and it’s only out respect that we have welcomed you to this place,” lamented the elderly man to the consternation of the gathered government officials.
A stone’s throw away stood what looked like an abandoned weir with a pool of muddy water collected from the previous night’s downpour.
At one part of the huge crater-like depression surrounded by mountains of loose earth is an enormous gaping hole, a testament to a poorly put spillway. A barbed wire fence that runs the entire circumference of the dam is almost falling in some areas of the sh14.4 million reservoir that was meant to bring hope and life to both man and beast in this remote villages within far flung sub county and home to Masinga dam, one of the largest water reservoirs along the Seven Fork Dam.
Outside the collapsed dam lies a watering trough with one of the slabs already broken down, while an incomplete pit latrine with one of its door apparently vandalized stands a few meters away.
Indeed Kwa Mwangi Kangonde water pan stands out as a living testament to how ineptitude, impunity and outright greed can achieve within a short span of two years.
The construction of the dam with its auxiliaries that included cattle troughs, fencing community watering point and putting up of sanitation facilities commenced in 2017.
Last year, it was given a 100 per cent completion certification and was to be handed over to the government later this year by M/S Parks Limited, the firm that undertook construction works despite having performed below mediocre.
According to the villagers, the project was bound to fail from the start after the contractor told them off when they started questioning the way construction works were going on.
They told the leaders they were never consulted nor was there any form of public participation carried out.
When the dam was finally completed, the walls which neither had no concrete reinforcement caved in immediately following heavy rains in 2018.
“We were kept in the dark throughout the construction of this dam. Whenever we questioned the way things were being done, the contractor on site told us to mind our business,” pointed out Kiio.
Victoria Wambua, another resident is now requesting the state to look into the matter and redo the water pan to ease the daily ordeal which women undergo in search of water for domestic use and livestock. She says they are still optimistic something will be done and that the dam would be repaired soon.
“We really thought the construction of this watering pan was going to save us from the hassles of travelling long distances in search of water. But this is not the case as at now. We therefore implore on the government to come to our help by redoing the dam to the acceptable standards,” she says.
When Maina stood to address the residents she assured them of the government’s commitment in addressing the matter, including going for those who were behind the substandard work.
The administrator said the government was keen in ensuring those mandated to undertake public projects do them above board and would not look the other way while rogue persons pocket millions of money for doing mediocre works.
She noted that the failed dam was among eight water projects in the county found to have been poorly done despite the State having sunk at least Sh90 million for their completion through the National Irrigation Board (NIB).
“This dam has gobbled up a total of Sh 14 million yet as it stands it’s not only a disappointment but an embarrassment. This contractor belongs to jail,” said the administrator.
She has however called upon both the public and local administrators to be vigilant by reporting those suspected to be siphoning government funds while doing nothing worth showing.
“We will not let public money go to waste. This is the directive from the President. If you see such contractors dong similar kind of inferior works report to us immediately,” she urged.
An engineer from Makueni NIB offices Mr. Willie Gatambo said he was unaware of the condemned project until then.
He nevertheless promised to follow up the matter with his superiors and see what could be done.
On his part, area MCA Tareq Muema Mulatya promised to mobilize area residents in supporting government funded development initiatives and ensuring there was value for money for each of such projects.
Mulatya claimed that had there been public participation before the project was started, the story would perhaps be different today.
“I could not follow up on this project since it was a national undertaking but this will change from today. We shall support the government on the ground and ensure projects are carried in accordance to specifications. As for those who were involved in this work, let them be brought to book immediately,” he urged.
Since it began its work this year CDICC has inspected at least 58 road and water projects within Machakos County after President Uhuru directed a review of all government funded projects across the country in line with his Big 4 agenda.
By Samuel Maina