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Termination of contract leaves over 200 employees out of work

The Mwea Member of Parliament, Wathayu Wachira speaking to press after a function at Mwea Boys’ High School. Photo by KNA.

Over  200 employees have been left jobless after a contractor in Mwea, Kirinyaga County terminated its contract with National Irrigation Board.

According to the Mwea NIB Manager, Innocent  Ariemba the company issued a pull out letter last month (January).

“We have been talking to them but we don’t know why they have decided to go,” Ariemba said.

Sogea Satom company had been contracted to build furrows at the Mwea Irrigation scheme to expand rice farming by over ten thousand hectares.

Ariemba said the expansion was in line with preparation for the completion of Thiba dam which is envisaged to provide irrigation water to the scheme and the additional hectares to be opened up.

The  officials of the company who spoke to the media but requested anonymity since they are not allowed to speak on behalf of the company accused the government of failing to comply with employers acts.

“They have not paid the company shs.370million,” one of the contractors said.

Sogea Satom has also accused two local engineers attached to the project of failure to comply with employers’ act in that they have been forcing the company to hire locals who are not qualified.

In  Gichugu constituency, the construction of Thiba is still going on despite Strabag International warning that they will also terminate their contract if the government does not pay them the shs. 400million by the end of March.

The  Mwea MP, Kabinga  Wachira has no kind words for the construction company which he says have been dilly darling for about three years at the site.

A furious Wachira said it was hypocritical for the Sogea Company to terminate the contract without notice just after doing only 30 per cent of the work for the last two and a half years.

The company had been awarded part of the Sh. 19 billion Thiba mega dam which entailed construction of irrigation water canals to the expanded 10,000 hectares of rice fields.

Wachira blamed the company for spending a lot of time while doing very little for the project only to pull out without notice.

This company has been moving at a snail’s pace since it started this project three years ago only to terminate the contract after doing only 30 per cent of the project at the expense of the Mwea rice farmers but this should not be a concern since the government has promised to bring in another contractor to ensure completion by 2022,”he said.

Speaking at Mwea Boys High school, the legislator said the Thiba mega dam and the construction of the canals were one integral part of the Sh. 19 billion project financed by the Japanese government.

He said Sogea will however be paid for the percentage of works it had done on the project while it will also pay for the termination of the contract half way.

“Any of the two parties that terminate a contract before the completion of a project is liable to pay the other compensation and in this regard it is Sogea that is to pay the government, “the first time legislator said.

Following the move, its back to the drawing board as the government now starts looking for another suitable contractor to undertake the 70 per cent of the unfinished job.

Wachira also hinted that the government was contemplating to have the Visas of all the Sogea staffers canceled and also ensure the company will no longer be awarded any contract in the country.

The foreign company has already started to dismantle its camp which was situated at Kandongu market within the area.

It was not clear which the next destination of the company was though there were unconfirmed reports that it was headed to Ruiru town in Kiambu County for another project.

None of the Engineers of the company was willing to talk to the press when this crew visited the site early today with local employees who have lost their jobs crying foul.

The move puts in jeopardy the future of the Thiba dam which is a major component of the construction of irrigation canals that Sogea has abandoned.

The mega project was set to be completed next year but this date has now been pushed to 2022 though doubts have been cast due to the delays by the Treasury to release funds on time to the Strabag company, which is doing the dam.

The Ksh.20 billion project was launched by the President Uhuru Kenyatta on November 23, 2017 a few days to his inauguration for his second term in the office.

President Kenyatta said the project would be a game changer in rice production at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.

By Irungu Mwangi

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