Top managers of the Nairobi water company were introduced to the French firm at the heart of privatisation allegations by national government officials.
Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) MD Phillip Gichuki said he got to know the Suez Company through the Ministry of Water and Irrigation early this year.
Mr Gichuki made the claims when he appeared before the county assembly’s Water and Sanitation committee yesterday to shed more light on the saga.
He said the water company bosses as well as county government and Athi Water Services officials were introduced to Suez Company representatives by officials from the Water ministry. This, he said, took place when the ministry was drilling boreholes in parts of the city.
“The meeting was to deliberate over the drilling of 40 boreholes to mitigate the water shortage. When it ended, we were told to remain behind and were introduced to representatives from Suez Company,” said Gichuki.
He said the representatives made a presentation on the management of water services in Morocco, where they are contracted, and compared it to that in Nairobi. He said the French firm was in charge of water, electricity and drainage in Casablanca.
“Soon after, a deliberation was made that a technical team should visit Casablanca in Morocco for bench-marking purposes and to learn from their water management model,” he said.
Consequently, he said, a team of six comprising three technical team members from NCWSC, an official from Athi Water Services, a City Hall representative and a board member from the water firm was formed. Following their visit, the team put together a damning report on the French firm’s water model.
The report said it was not advisable to use the model because the Nairobi Water company’s was better by far.
“On their return, everyone on the team agreed with the report apart from one Samuel Ojanga, who suggested that a second team comprising board members travel to Casablanca to make their own observations,” said Gichuki.
The second team made up of NCWSC Board of Directors Chairman Raphael Nzomo, Rosemary Khamati, Lawrence Atonga and County Environment Chief Officer Christine Ogut among others.
The contentious memorandum of understanding that has led to NCWSC workers downing their tools would however emerge during a boardroom presentation by Suez Company officials in Morocco.
“During the presentation, directors of Suez Company presented an MoU that was very detailed and insisted that I sign it, but I declined. I told the board chairman that I had to seek legal advice from the company secretary back in Nairobi,” said Gichuki. The secretary advised against it.
“The secretary consulted with other members and said it was not possible to sign the document, and I informed the other board members who also agreed,” he added.
But Privatisation Commission – the body mandated to formulate, manage and implement the country’s privatisation programme – denied the existence of such plans. The commission’s Executive Officer, Solomon Kitungu, said there was no such matter before the commission and only found out about the claims through the media.
“We do not have any such transactions under the privatisation programme. Privatisations relating to water mainly involve management contracts, leases, concessions and other forms of public-private partnerships,” said Mr Kitungu.
Michael Ogada, MCA in Embakasi East, however sought to know how such a detailed document was crafted by Suez Company without input from the water firm. Committee chairman Alex Otieno said, “There must be an insider who helped with drafting the document.”