Airport controversy threatens to spin out of control

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kenya airports

(eTN) – The latest twist in the saga of Kenya airports, is now hitting the headlines in Nairobi, with allegations of a million dollar bribe having been given to an unnamed official, who subsequently t

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(eTN) – The latest twist in the saga of Kenya airports, is now hitting the headlines in Nairobi, with allegations of a million dollar bribe having been given to an unnamed official, who subsequently tried to turn all hell lose when “his friends” did not get the contract to build Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s (JKIA) second runway and new “super terminal.”

This Vision 2030 expansion of East Africa’s primary aviation hub, which according to information gathered while in Nairobi during the week will be aimed to significantly cater to Kenya Airways’ (KQ) projected growth under its 10-year strategic “Plan Mawingo” and provide an integrated terminal for KQ and its Sky Team partners, has been under the media spotlight since embattled Transport Minister Amos Kimunya attempted to overturn the tender award made in December last year.

The Kenyan public, armed with ever-more details through the media, is presently rushing to conclusions as to his true motive, now that open allegation on a million dollar bribe has been made, though without naming names for legal reasons at this moment. Similar allegations were made years ago when Kimunya was knee deep in the fallout when the Grand Regency Hotel was sold to the then Gadaffi regime for a fraction of what was the true market value of the property. Analysts are already drawing parallels between the two cases and are attempting to put two and two together, once too often for those now baying for Kimunya’s scalp.

Sections of the board of KAA, thought to be individuals in Kimunya’s pocket, attempted to send the KAA CEO on compulsory leave, but the latest information has it that Stephen Gichuki refused to take this laying down and in turn accused the board of acting illegally by failing to observe regulations to do with calling a valid board meeting. “From what I could establish, that meeting was not called by the Corporation Secretary, which is a requirement, and it failed to involve the CEO in calling for the meeting, which is another requirement under the existing law. It would suggest that the Chairman of the Board committed a serious procedural error, and it now calls his own position into question. Is he still tenable in this job or just did the bidding of his political master by trying to organize a clandestine meeting behind the back of the CEO?

“The biggest fallout of that, if it delays the project start, will be for Kenya Airways because their entire strategy is centered on the expansion of JKIA. They said it, the President said it, and if there are now forces at play which put their bribes before the national interest, it is surely time Kibaki steps into the fray and directs where this is to go. Kimunya has been disrespectful to the President when he basically told him to get lost with his ambition to break ground for the project before his term ends, and ministers in the past were sacked for less reasons. Let us not lose sight that Kimunya very likely misled the parliament with his answers on the issue and is already being investigated for that action. And the Board of KAA had sanctioned the contract in principle even though there is now a cost increase over the figure initially agreed upon. If sections of the board are dancing to Kimunya’s tunes, let them be sacked, too, for trying to sabotage this project,” wrote a regular aviation source from Nairobi overnight.

It has since become known that Kenya Airways’ Chief Executive Dr. Titus Naikuni has spoken out, too, expressing his growing concern that any change in schedule would have a significant and financially very negative impact on national airline Kenya Airways. He had on previous occasions minced no words, not when in December last year the B787 Dreamliner was introduced in Nairobi nor at the launch of the airline’s share right issue in April in the presence of President Kibaki, that the growth of infrastructure in Nairobi was quintessential for the growth and future success of the airline. With aircraft number 36, an Embraer 190, expected in September, and then more month-by-month lifting the fleet across the 40 threshold by early 2013, it is needless to say paramount that government delivers on the airport expansion, not just the current work scope but the crucially important second runway and major new terminal under “Project Greenfield,” without which Kenya Airways’ “Project Mawingo” could be stopped dead in its tracks, a failure which competitors on the continent belonging to other airline alliances would gleefully watch happen as no such issues are known to surround the building, for instance, of the new airport in Addis Ababa, where Ethiopian Airlines belongs to Sky Team’s archrival Star Alliance.

“If JKIA does not soon start to build the second runway and that new terminal and facilities expansion, the airport will choke on traffic and KQ’s ambitions will be thwarted if not sabotaged. Therefore, I think it is important that the issue of economic sabotage is raised here, and that those individuals trying to scuttle the timeframe need to be exposed for what they are – traitors to progress and development, scavengers only interested in filling their own stomach,” added the Nairobi-based source when discussing the latest developments this morning.

What is clear, is that the project is being increasingly submerged in murky waters, making it more and more difficult to see through personal and vested interests of individuals playing the fiddles and vying for the lead, and that investigations will find it difficult to separate myth and intentionally-told fiction from the hard reality of signed documents, signed board minutes, and, in particular, the various letters and green light nods from, among others, the Kenyan Attorney General and the country’s procurement watch dog.

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