This one is about mendacity.

I have to break one of my own house rules today and put up a video link, but only because I can't see any other way to explain this term. Up until I watched this movie many years ago on TCM, I had never heard the word mendacity before. These days, its all I think of when I listen to yet another slimy politician and grimy bureaucrat telling me lies and more lies. The stench of mendacity...

men·dac·i·ty [men-das-i-tee]
noun, plural men·dac·i·ties
1. the quality of being mendacious; untruthfulness; tendency to lie.
2. an instance of lying; falsehood.
1640–50; Late Latin mendācitās falsehood, equivalent to Latin mendāci
deception, lie, untruth, deceit.

These people, they be lying to me. And not just lying, but lying mendaciously.

So, the house that cost 400M, soon to cost 500M, or probably more. This story of the VP's house has vexed me for many years. In a scheme cooked up early in the last decade, it was decided that the government would build an official residence for our most esteemed vice president. 'Why?' you ask. Well, apparently the VP was sans residence, other than his own most stately mansion (at the time the VP was one Moody Awori, co-owner of Kenya Inc.). 'But what about the house on Kabarnet Drive?' you ask, 'The one that Moi used to use as his home away from home, away from home, ad infinitum?' Turns out, the NARC government, in a fit of uncharacteristic generosity, saw fit to gift said house to the ex prezzo on his exit, rather than send him packing to Kabarak, or Sacho, or wherever else the man had built himself a mansion. Thus, finding themselves without an 'official' house for the country's number two, and resisting the urge to build another house on the disturbingly large piece of earth the State House sits on in our capital, the geniuses decided to go out and buy a piece of land. Not a house, land, because buying a house just makes no sense. Good plan, no? They started off by identifying a suitable plot in Karen, of suitable size, near an all weather road to boot, because our VP wasn’t going to drive on any potholed cattle track. No sirree bob, the man would have to be near tarmac, and trees.

And so it came to pass that a mansion was planned, out in the boondocks, next to some military installation or other.  Drawings were prepared, bills drawn up and tenders went out.  A contractor was appointed, and off they went to site, everyone content with the contract price of Ksh 197M. '197 Million Shillings?'  I hear you ask.  Why yes, but not for just one house, that would be silly, and our government is anything but silly.  The original project “...covered construction of the main house, guest house, an office block, a gazebo, swimming pool and a garage.”  Cost of Kenya's Vice President’s house doubles to Sh380m (easier to read on the MARS Group site).  Well okay then, if they were building all of that, then I guess the figure doesn’t seem that high, does it?

But, alas, this is government, and they are nothing if not fastidious about quality.  In 2008, several years after the contractor went to site, they fired their contractor, “for delays and poor workmanship”. And it gets better, because apparently “...the government has paid Dimken Sh69.9 million as certified payment for 80 per cent of the work done.

Now, can we pause here briefly and ask a simple question, if they had been paid 70M for 80% of the work, how was the total contract sum 197M?  I know I'm not a genius, but even I can tell there's something amiss with those mathafus, no?

Having fired their contractor, the government then sent out a tender for completion of the works, such as they do.  “The cost of building an official residence for Kenya's Vice-President has doubled to Sh383 million after the original contractor was fired for delays and poor workmanship. A new contractor, Italbuild Imports, has been named to complete the job after Public Works ministry kicked out Dimken Kenya Ltd.”  383M, from 197M?  “The ministry's public relations officer, Mr Ali Chege, defended the new tender price, saying the previous contractor had done only 30 per cent of the work before being stopped.”  

We must pause again.  30% of the work?  But you had paid for 80% of the work, no?

“Speaking on behalf of the minister, Mr Chege defended the cost escalation, telling the Nation that prices for cement, paint and labour had since 2005 increased by about 75 per cent. He also said some parts of the completed building would be demolished and built afresh because of poor and defective workmanship. He, however, did not explain why the contractor did a shoddy job in spite of supervision of ministry engineers and architects.”  And just to prove that he was not content with the dodgy answers he was getting, this brilliant journo (and he really is quite brilliant, bless him) dug deeper. “While the ministry is quiet on why taxpayers are footing the bill for failure by the engineers to supervise the construction, minutes seen by the Nation show that there was a resident engineer and a site clerk whose job was to ensure that the construction was done in line with the specifications. The minutes also show that the ministry technical team used to visit the site on Thursdays.”

If I was diligent, and I'm not, I would go back and get you material prices from 2005 (when the first tender went out) and 2009, so as to illustrate the 75% jump in prices.  Or not, I'm pretty sure the price of my labour didn't go up that much in 3 years.  Let's continue...

Mr Chege also defended inclusion in the new costs of items that had already been bought or completed by the previous contractor. The Bills of Quantities in the tender document includes the cost of roofing (the house is already roofed), Sh3 million for a generator (which was purchased by the previous contractor) and Sh2 million for connecting electricity, which is already on site. Other costs include Sh17 million for plumbing and drainage works, Sh7 million for drilling a borehole, Sh6.4 million for landscaping and Sh60 million for civil works. The ministry, however, says that the entire roof will be brought down and built afresh. "We were forced to include the budget for roofing because the roofing that was done was not professionally and properly executed. It is of poor workmanship, defective and unsatisfactory," Mr Chege said. He also confirmed that a generator had been bought, but said the Sh3 million would be used for "installation, testing and commissioning". He said of the electricity on site that it was a temporary connection needed during construction. The Sh2 million would be for the full installation, he said. The ministry further defended spending Sh7 million on a borehole, saying the amount was reasonable. The cost for the VP's house had gone up by another Sh57 million because of including staff houses, security house, caretaker's house, pump house and landscaping. Demolition work and additional works, which include mechanical equipment for kitchen, sauna and swimming pool, will cost a staggering Sh117 million.”

Hands up anyone who has ever had any dealings with mjengo.  I'm guessing more than half of you have your hands in the air right now, because we are not young ones here.  Now tell me, does any of this bullshit smell funny to you?  No?  2M to connect stima?  17M for plumbing and drainage and then 60M for civil works?  117fuckingM for mechanical equipment for a fucking kitchen and pool?  This must be one hell of a digs, no?  Lets have a look shall we...  Pictures of the new 400M residence  I know, absofuckinglutelty amazing, isnt it?

Do you understand why I talk of the stench of mendacity?  Where in those pictures do you see landscaping worth 6.4M?  All I see is grass...

Fast forward to October 2011, and the house et al is almost complete, the new contractor claiming it would be ready by December that year.  During the site inspection, the minister informed us that the government had, in fact, recovered the some of the monies paid to the previous contractor, easing our concerns about the continued (mis)use of our tax shillings.  “Obure confirmed that the government had recovered a performance bond and advance payment guarantee of Sh37 million from the guaranteeing bank after the termination of the first contract in 2008. “The matter is still at the level of arbitration, we are all interested in the amicable settlement of the matter, but as far as government is concerned we have recovered what we are supposed to recover and so the government and the public have not lost money on the project,” he stated.” (New Kenya VP residence almost done)  Unfortunately for us, the company in question was wound up that very month, some would say conveniently.  “Equity Bank has succeeded in a bid to wind up a firm initially contracted by the government to build the Vice President’s official residence in Karen. The bank carried the day after Mr Justice Leonard Njagi concurred with the bank that Dimken Kenya Ltd, owned by businessman Dick Githaiga, should be wound up over a debt of Sh197 million owed to Equity and other creditors.” (Firm building VP house woundup.)  For the more legally inclined amongst us, take a gander at this, Kenya Law Reports.  And that was the last we heard of that story, despite the strange coincidence of a 197M debt.

Let's 'move on' to 2012, and the technical handover of the house to then President Kibaki. “According to project manager Linus Kibisu, the mansion whose construction began seven years ago, is now ready for occupation. "The landscaping has been done, the road works have been completed together with the drainage…everything is ready. We have today (Thursday) performed the technical handover of the facility to the Ministry of Home Affairs who will now decide when it will be occupied,” said the architect. "All that remains is the furnishing and we are good to go."” (VP residence 'ready for occupation')  Alright then, we have a house et al, finally, and just in the nick of time too, because we wouldn’t want the Baba Jimmy leaving a white elephant behind, now would we?

Come 2013, a new government and a new VP, sorry, Deputy President, and the house was about to have its first tenant.  But wait, wasn’t the DP supposed to move into the PM's former office as well?  Ruto took over the office a week after the Supreme Court upheld the Jubilee Coalition victory. He settled on the second floor, exactly the same office Raila moved into in 2008 after the power-sharing deal between him and former President Kibaki under the National Accord. Ruto also occupied the half a billion-shilling Deputy President’s residence in Karen suburb... The DP occasionally visits the residence that is barely 2km from his palatial home in Karen... Though there is no clear role she is expected to play, two weeks ago Rachel Ruto the DP’s wife also took over the offices of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s wife Ida Odinga at NHIF building in Upper Hill.”  (Deputy President William Ruto took over PM office and VP house)  

Keep this in mind as we skip to the present, and last Sunday's revelations of renovations to the VP/DP's complex, Ruto house upgrade to cost Kenyans Sh100m.  “Initially, the refurbishment was projected to cost nearly Sh200 million, but it is said to have been scaled down to around Sh100 million after some components were removed... Although the building was completed in September last year and inaugurated two months later, the main house has remained vacant. Mr Ruto, who was elected Deputy President in March, is yet to move in and only uses the offices and gym facilities there, like his predecessor, Mr Musyoka did.”  So he uses the office and the gym, both of which he has in his Karen spread (he showed us, remember, I saw it on TV, he even has a prayer room, no?  Perhaps not, I may have made that part up...), just down the road?   Fair enough, traffic from Karen to the city centre is a bitch most days, right?  Moving on (ahem) swiftly, refurbishment?  To a new house?  But sir, whatever could be wrong with this brand spanking new complex that needs to be fixed at such a hefty cost?

I'll skip over most of the changes planned, the lovely bloggers at Diasporadical have already had a field day with those (ah iCon, that cat is pure genius..).  I want to focus instead on those I feel have been ignored, because they sound almost innocuous.  “The Sunday Nation also established that one of the masionettes earmarked for the caretaker in the compound will be refurbished and converted into an office for the Deputy President’s wife, Mrs Rachel Ruto.”  Remember the office she took over at NHIF, the one we didn’t know even existed?  “It is expected that the offices will eventually be expanded to accommodate more staff from the deputy President’s office. Currently, the residence is fully fledged with secretaries, security personnel, procurement officers, finance and human resource people.”  Again, remember the office he kicked the PM out of, the one that was supposed to house my governor and his antique car, that big building on Harambee Avenue with the hideous perimeter wall, the one someone tried to attack with a grenedi several years back?

Aaaaahhhh...  The ripe stench of mendacity, my lovelies.

I'm off to go get drunk now, because that is my solution to the lies, not unlike my dear Brick in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'.

PS.  Ms Kilonzo and her no registration, no voting antics?  Fucking mendacity!