The fallout between cabinet minister for water and irrigation Eugene Wamalwa with the immediate former Chief Executive and Managing Director of the National Irrigations Board (NIB) Eng. Dan Barasa over nonpayment of deal interests saw the acrimonious exit of the latter.
It all begun one morning on a working day when the minister telephoned Eng. Barasa at NIBs headquarters ordering him to ensure that a certain contractor friend of his of Asian origin was paid what was due to him from the board.
The contractor is one of those handling multibillion shillings projects that the board is already rolling out and yet more are in the pipeline. Earlier he (the contractor) had talked with the minister concerning payment of his dues by the board and hence the minister’s morning call to the Chief Executive.
It has been revealed that on that particular day one of the major activities that was going on at the board is payment of pending dues to contractors who had done or doing work for the board in various projects across the country.
However as things turned out on that particular day Mr. Wamalwa’s contractor was not paid anything after being assured by the minister forcing the minister to call Eng. Barasa to find out why his “Man” had not been paid.
That is when real hot fire started burning under Mr. Barasa’s comfortable Chief Executive’s chair at the National Irrigation Board headquarters in Nairobi as Wamalwa could hear nothing of his excuses.
The Chief Executive told the minister that his “Man” could not be paid because the board had run out of the money which was immediately
available in their coffers to pay its contractors and that was the beginning of the trouble.
From a Country club in Western Kenya where the minister was calling his junior in Nairobi, he was observed seated mulling thoughtfully for a long time without speaking to the few friends that he was seated with.
However when that was over he was heard simply saying: “He has refused to pay my man as I had instructed him! He will see and I am going to fix him let him just wait and see.” That was the beginning the die had been cast for Barasa.
Eng. Barasa who in his arrogance and pride was at logger-heads with the majority of the members of the National Irrigations Board directors and there were still touchy matters concerning finances for which the board was demanding answers but they were not forthcoming only acrimony and brush-offs.
This involved multi-billion shillings irrigation projects across the country with the following four being particularly most sensitive and the most demanding not only because of their monetary worth, but also the interests both the national and foreign governments have in them.
The biggest of the four is the multi-billion shillings Galana-Kalalu irrigation scheme in the coast province which at one time this year MPs suspended saying it had gobbled up more Kshs. 7 billion but was not performing. It is a Kshs 14 billion project targeting irrigation of more than one billion acres. The contract was won by an Israeli firm.
The immediate thing the minister did was to secretly collaborate with the board chairman to mobilize the other members of the board to immediately suspend Eng. Barasa, his deputy and the procurements boss pending the beginning of investigations into what was said to be irregular dealings.
This was immediately executed and in the process generated a lot of tension at the NIB headquarters also near the ministry of defense popularly known as the Department of Defense (DoD) headquarters – as acrimony and a stand-off loomed big between the affected managers and the board officials.
Having effectively executed his desire, the minister decided to completely get off air therefore repeated desperate calls from Eng. Barasa to reach him and get him to intervene into the situation were fruitless as the saga rolled itself out.
However with the standoff running into days, Eugene was forced to get back on air but even then he was already getting under immense pressure to resolve the problems that had erupted at the National Irrigations Board.
Reportedly the office of the Vice President was keenly watching the ongoings with the keen interest of inserting their own man at NIBs at least in the acting capacity of the managing director board while that of the president’s handlers were not left out because of the multi-billion shillings institution.
Not forgetting the fact that just a few weeks previously President Uhuru Kenyatta himself had led a high powered delegation to Israel which happens to be one of the world’s countries with most successful irrigation show cases. He had signed multi-billion shillings deals with that country’s government to finance some mega irrigation projects in Kenya including provision of technical manpower and machinery.
These are billions of shillings already in the pipeline for mega multi-billion shillings projects that President Kenyatta who is heading to a general elections next year is anxious to put on his track record in the first five years of his administration in office as he fights for a second term – not forgetting the fact that Barasa has also declared his interest to un-seat Busia’s governor Sospeter Ojaamong at the same elections.
The pressure on the minister to re-instate Barasa to his position was coming mainly from leaders from around the Jubilee Alliance TNA’s faction because of the CEOs relationship with the Member of Parliament for Thika Alice Ng’ang’a and others from his and Barasa’s home western Kenya region believed to be associated with that alliance.
As pressure continued to mount against the minister who had triggered the whole mess, he was forced to order the same board to immediately re-instate the man he had ordered to be sent packing and that is when matters came to a head – with the board bluntly refusing to obey despite the minister’s threats they stood firm forcing the minister to take action.
Wamalwa was forced to initially swallow humble pie bring the board and Barasa together in a public relations unification circus that saw Barasa back on course, but the fire was burning fiercely with the internal intrigues continuing where the acting Managing Director Gitonga Mugambi appears to have ganged up with the minister to get rid of the old guard at the parastatal’s top management level.
After settling on Mugambi to take the mantle, Eng. Barasa was forced to resign while the rest of the board was disbanded by Wamalwa pending the appointment of a new one to run the corporation for a period of three months after their appointment, but by the time we went to press this was yet to be done and it would be interesting to see who is who in its composition.
On sacking the board and Barasa Wamalwa said that NIB does not condone corruption, boardroom wars, and sideshows and that he has already appointed Mr Gitonga Mugambi to act as the General Manager pending the reconstitution of a new board that will take over the management of the institution for the next three months.
The minister pointed out that the dissolution of the board was indispensable because three of its members –including the chairman are serving as Public Officers in various institutions of higher learning which he noted contradicts a circular dated February 3rd, 2016 that bars civil servants from holding more than one position.