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Safety of Sh49bn oil pipeline queried.

The safety of the S9 billion Mombasa-Nairobi oil pipeline enhancement project remains in doubt after it emerged that a consultant who was hired to supervise its construction has declined to release the safety report until the amount owed to him is fully paid. Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) hired Shengli Engineering and Consulting Company Limited (SLECC), a Chinese firm, at a cost of Sh12 billion to supervise the construction of the pipeline, whose tender was awarded to a Lebanese company, Zakhem International Construction (ZIC).

On Wednesday, Mr Joseph Kones, KPC's acting general manager in charge of infrastructure, told the Senate Energy committee that SLECC is yet to release the project management report despite being paid 95 per cent of the contract sum. "The remaining five per cent was withheld until the report is delivered by the consultant," Mr Kones told the committee chaired by Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina.

Mr Kones was accompanied by Petroleum and Mining chief administrative secretary Mohamed Elmi, principal secretary Andrew Kamau and KPC acting managing director Hudson Andambi. The 450km pipeline project was expected to be completed by September 30, 2016, but was extended to February 9, 2017, and further to April 28, 2017, and then last year when it was commissioned due to the bad blood between the contractor and consultant.

The project management report, a summary of the project management information from the consultant, is crucial in determining whether the pipeline is ready and safe for operation despite the pipeline having been commissioned by the President about a year ago. In a letter dated July 12, 2019, KPC has requested for the report from SLECC and is awaiting their response.

COMPENSATED The committee was also told that the new line does not have a leakage detector and that KPC was in the process of procuring for the installation of this service. The lack of the leakage detector, which helps in signalling areas of leakage so that the relevant KPC officers can respond, could be the reason why numerous instances of oil leakage and illegal siphoning worth billions of shillings have been reported, with fears that Kenyans could be forced to pay for the losses.

"We hope Kenyans are not going to be charged for the oil stolen by insider forces within KPC or through their own negligence. I hope this matter is not passed on to innocent Kenyans," Mr Maina, himself an engineer, said.

But PS Kamau gave an assurance: "We are looking into who was working where, if there is a common threat, and we hope to conclude soon." At least 194,000 litres of oil worth billions of shillings belonging to the Oil Marketers Companies (OMCs) are reported to have been lost through spillage at Kiboko area in Makueni.

KPC is in contact with the firms on how they will be compensated. The Transport and Storage Agreement, which governs KPCs relationship with the OMCs, will guide the compensation process.

Mr Andambi said KPC is procuring state-of-the-art leakage detection technology to be installed on the pipeline network across the country. He was, however, silent on why the technology has not been procured more than six months since the leakage was first reported at Kiboko.

"We would want this to happen as soon as possible to detect leakages in our oil pipeline system from Mombasa to Kisumu," Mr Andambi said. The lack of the leakage detector has also seen the pipeline vandalised at will with fuel siphoned from illegal connections in Mlolongo in Machakos, and Koru in Kisumu, among other areas.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations is already investigating the matter after laying an ambush in Mlolongo and arresting some suspects, who are believed to have connived with some elements at the KPC headquarters.
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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Aug 8, 2019
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