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Infrastructure deals must be transparent

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Infrastructure deals must be transparent


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A road under construction. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The government has in the past had to address speculation around the terms of public infrastructure project contracts entered with foreign governments and companies amid concerns about the public debt load.

In 2018, for instance, President Uhuru Kenyatta indicated he would make the details of the contract for the Chinese-built standard gauge railway (SGR) public to counter allegations that his administration had mortgaged key national assets such as the port of Mombasa.

Some of these allegations may not be credible. But the veil of secrecy over these deals and contradicting statements by government officials in some cases continue to fuel the speculation about national asset exposure.

In the latest such case, the Treasury has disowned a promise of a commercial proposal request it appeared to have made to Dubai Ports World (DP World) for a bid to develop, operate and manage four Kenyan ports.

DP World officials say they have been expecting the request for proposal to be issued this month.

The Treasury has denied the existence of such a deal despite having alluded to considering engaging private players to run the new Lamu Port.

It is likely that the Treasury is keen to minimise the political damage from the sensational claims made recently by the Deputy President William Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza coalition that the ports had been sold to the Dubai firm.

The only way the government can put an end to the speculation over public infrastructure contracts is to be transparent. Kenyans deserve to know the details.

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