Kenya’s Sh300 billion ‘thank you gift’ road project handed to an American firm on a silver platter has sparked a fresh tender war among implementing agencies.

As attention of country was focused on the August 8, General Election, a small team of government officials were holed in meetings to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on what is set to be the single largest road project in Kenya.

The team, largely drawn from the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) and the Ministry of Transport, had already sent the project draft to the Attorney General’s office for comments and clearance.

Three days before Kenyans lined up to vote, the final signature was put on paper, handing over the lucrative contract to build the 473-kilometer high-speed expressway between Nairobi and Mombasa to a US firm, Bechtel International Inc. Unlike previous announcements of government projects of such scale, there was no press conference from the Ministry of Transport to break the news.

There was also no announcement from State House. Instead, government officials chose to make the announcement at lunch time on Saturday when everyone was training eyes on the political rallies, as the pessimists rushed to the shopping malls to stock pile food and other home supplies in case of political stalemate.

It also not clear why the announcement had to be done in such a hurry and on a day when most government offices were closed. The press release sent to media houses at 1.30pm did not have the most important details of the project; the cost.

But as details of the deal start to become available, it is emerging that the mega project has stark similarities to the controversial Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) contract which was handed to a Chinese company in another sweet heart deal in the run up to the 2013 general election.

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