Fernandes Barasa’s rise and stay at the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) was called into curiosity by a local blog on Sunday July 26.
They say youth in oppressive lands are known to take anything thrown at them with a wry smile, cheering thieves, dictators and other criminals that can afford bail just like a loaf of bread. However Barasa isn’t one of them.
For starters, he is the CEO and managing director of KETRACO, a government agency mandated to plan, design, construct, own, operate and maintain high voltage electricity transmission grid and regional power interconnectors that will form the backbone of the National Transmission Grid.
Mr Barasa, a former boss of the now disintegrating Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) has feasted his eyes on politics. According to reports, he is set to be the Governor of Kakamega County succeeding Wycliffe Oparanya.
The first red light is not that he wants to join politics, a great escape route for many a long armed criminal that traverses the corridors of power in Kenya. The real deal is that Mr Barasa has laid out a foundation to help poor youths in that county.
His association with Deputy President William Ruto, plus the foundation, and wanting to join politics is what is also suspect.
Foundations and politics in this country have been used from time immemorial to ‘clean, protect and advance’ any past and future corrupt dealings.
KETRACO, like many other state corporations, has been roped into mismanaging multi-billion shillings worth of contracts.
In the first one, a Ksh14 billion 450-kilometre, 1,500-megawatt Mombasa-Nairobi power line, there were fraudulent payments of alleged landowners.
Kenyans were swindled their hard earned money by the management of KETRACO through fraudulent payments disguised as legitimate. On paper, the money was paid to genuine landowners on whose property KETRACO put up electricity transmission lines, but detectives believe a huge percentage of the money was squandered by officials at the State agency.
Detectives uncovered one case in Kisaju, Kajiado County, where a landowner was paid 10 times more than the value of his land, mirroring hundreds of others during the construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi transmission line.
Secondly, in February 2018, KETRACO penned a contract worth $240M (Ksh24 billion) with China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Company Limited (CET) in the nation’s few attempts to electrify the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). The promise was that in 28 months, the works would be complete.
“The project involves the construction of 14 substations between Mombasa and Nairobi. The main purpose of this venture is to ensure that when the SGR switches to clean energy power source, the supply will be reliable and sufficient for not only the train but other facilities along the Mombasa-Nairobi economic belt including train stations, planned industries, factories and businesses near the railway.” KETRACO wrote in their statement.
“This will create more major power customers and consumers and bring other opportunities to the locals. The design of the SGR railway, initially run by diesel-powered locomotives, allows for the addition of a single electric line that will be connected to KETRACO’s 482km 400kV Mombasa-Nairobi Transmission Line (MNTL) that was energized by President Uhuru Kenyatta on August 4, 2017.”
“MNTL, the longest and highest voltage transmission infrastructure in East Africa, has a transfer capacity of 1,500MW which is 200MW shy of the current national demand of 1,700MW. The line was constructed to address the challenges of low voltages, high transmission losses, unreliable supply including strengthening of network security and the national grid system.
“Its energization therefore debunks as flawed the myth that Kenya does not have a dependable source of electricity, most importantly one that can power the electric train network.” concluded the statement.
Two years down the line, the work of electrifying the SGR did not commence.
The third project also involved a transmission line. KETRACO Was reported to have misused Ksh6.3 billion for no or shoddy works done.
“KETRACO allowed a contractor to keep 100 per cent of its staff, even when the project had been stopped for 54 months after landowners blocked it, instead of just keeping a skeleton staff until matters had been resolved. There were also additional claims due to the contractor’s overheads during the delay.” read findings from a local blog.
“Auditors also flagged variations of contracts whose prices had been set beyond the 20 per cent variation limit stipulated by procurement law. One of the projects was varied by up to 86 per cent, resulting in additional charges of Ksh430 million.”
“The report also found outstanding way-leave compensation amounting to Ksh726 million, with another unclear payment of Ksh35.6 million made to a landowner in Kajiado. There was also an inflated land compensation payment of Ksh72 million to a software firm and the entity had taken a hit from a presidential directive on 20 per cent top up to compensate landowners.” the findings concluded.
The last one indicated that the whole money was misappropriated and ended up in the pockets of politicians. Sources trace the Ksh6.3 billion back to the Deputy President.
In the power lines scandals, very many billions have been mismanaged and most point to the financing of a campaign to sway the pendulum of Western Kenya to the DP.
The fourth scandal hit the Loiyangalani-Suswa power line worth Ksh28.9 billion. The project which had varied estimation of costs from the National Treasury (Ksh36 billion), Ministry of energy (Ksh33 billion) and Ketraco (Ksh30 billion) stalled at some point. The 435-kilometre double circuit transmission line is also rated at 400kV but currently operates at 220kV.
This would indicate that Fernandes Barasa is accused of carting away money from KETRACO to fund his and the political ambitions of the Deputy President.
The other big question of the whereabouts of the money to electrify the SGR remains unanswered. Where Fernandes Barasa took the Ksh25 billion remains a mystery.