Collapsed bridge: Why aren’t heads rolling?

EDITORIAL: The collapse of a bridge in Kajiado County days after it was officially commissioned brings into the spotlight the glaring lack of integrity among leaders. It is particularly painful that this infrastructure project gobbled up Ksh100 million, money that has now gone down the drain.

The Paai bridge across River Orkeriai is said to have given way following heavy rains. The new bridge was meant to connect three wards: Matapato North in Kajiado Central, Eselenkei in Kajiado South, and Kenyawa Poka in Kajiado East.

This important bridge was further meant to enable residents to easily access services in places such as Loitokitok, Mashuuru and Kajiado town. Its collapse is therefore a major blow that will have a negative impact on social and economic activity in the affected areas.

But it is the lackadaisical manner in which officials have treated this serious issue that is most astonishing. The County Executive Committee Member in charge of Roads and Public Works, Alex Kilowua, has said the incident was “a natural calamity,” thus absolving the county of any liability.

This is absurd. It is to be expected that an engineering project of this magnitude should have taken numerous factors into consideration. These would include the expected load to be supported by the bridge, the soil type and strength of rocks that would support the structure, and the volume of water passing under the bridge at the worst of times. With such studies in place, the bridge would then be built at a height and with sufficient structural strength to withstand floods.

The collapse of the bridge, then, may have been due to a lack of sufficient prior studies, corruption, engineering ineptitude, or all of these factors. It is therefore arrogant for the top-ranking official in charge of county infrastructure to attempt to excuse the collapse of the bridge by blaming floodwaters.

This is not the first time that the country has experienced losses as a result of poor workmanship and other avoidable factors. The regular collapse of buildings in all corners of the country, quite often while still under construction, has often resulted in the loss of human life. Newly-built roads and other structures are washed away at the slightest appearance of floods, even as cowboy contractors smile all the way to the bank.

It is noteworthy that Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku has not delved into the matter of the collapsed bridge. This business-as-usual attitude encourages impunity and the continued misuse of public resources by lower-ranking officials. A lackluster attitude towards public infrastructure projects will not endear his administration to voters, nor should it be allowed to continue. This being an election year, in particular, voters need to see renewed enthusiasm in dealing with the challenges they confront on a daily basis. We therefore add our voice to the many who are demanding that the issue of the collapsed bridge be handled at the highest echelons of the county administration and that those culpable be swiftly brought to book.

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