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By Isaac Ongiri – the east african standard

The Government plans to build new offices for President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a cost of Sh1.9 billion, The Standard can reveal.

The plan is a culmination of attempts to get a permanent location for the offices of the Prime Minister — a position that was created this year — at a place close to the President’s office for ease of operations. Plans that would have seen the Government buy BP/Shell House on Nairobi’s Harambee Avenue to house the offices of the Prime Minister and other ministries under his ambit seem to have come a cropper.

The President and the Prime Minister’s offices will now be built in the up-market Upper Hill neighbourhood, away from the busy city centre. The President’s offices have been at Harambee House in downtown Nairobi since 1961.
The Government confirmed it has already acquired land in Upper Hill where the office of the President, to be named New Harambee House, would be built.

Housing PS Tirop Kosgey confirmed that land initially set aside for the construction of Capitol Hill Police Station at Upper Hill estate will be the one in which the President’s new office will be constructed.

Six month notice

The Standard established that the Government’s Estate Department under the Housing ministry was in the process of securing land in the same area for the construction of another building to house the Prime Minister’s offices.

Mr Kosgey confirmed the plans and said it would cost Sh1.2 billion to build a new office for the Presidency. However, the money was not factored in this year’s Budget.

“We have acquired land to construct a building to be known as New Harambee House in Upper Hill. What remains is to set the logistics in motion in order to implement the plans,” Kosgey said.

But he disclosed that Treasury had set aside Sh700 million for the purchase of a new building to house the PM’s departmental complex.

The PS said initial plans to have the PM’s offices moved to a building on Harambee Avenue by January next year will now be delayed as the State works out the Upper Hill option.

The Government had learnt that the planned January relocation could not have been viable even if a building was bought because the tenants would have to be given six months’ notice to move.

Kosgey said the Government has for several months been evaluating proposals by estate agents on a building to house the PM’s offices.

Shell and BP and Marshals buildings on Harambee Avenue, opposite the President’s Harambee House office, had earlier been mooted as possible facilities to be considered for the Prime Minister’s offices.

“Yes, we have been talking to Shell and BP and others, but we agreed on nothing. In fact, we are highly considering plans to put up a Government house for that particular purpose,” the PS stated.

He, however, pointed out that the ministry hoped to get land opposite the one acquired for the President’s office so that the buildings were directly opposite each other.

The building to house the premier’s office will also accommodate ministries and departments under it. Currently, they are in different buildings.

The Ministry of Planning and that of Public Service and departmental offices such as personnel management, Prime Minister’s Press Service and the parliamentary secretariat would be housed at the new building.

Failed to strike deal

New Harambee House will also continue to provide room for the Ministry of Internal Security, Cabinet Office and other departments under OP. “We are looking forward to the construction of decent suites befitting the status of the two offices,” Kosgey said.

Since April, a committee of ministries, including the Prime Minister’s office, Housing, Public Works, Lands and Finance ministries, has been working on modalities of buying a building to house the premier.

Shell and BP House had been favoured for its ideal location directly opposite Harambee House.

The committee is said to have failed to strike a deal with an estate agency on the price after the former quoted a price the Government said was unrealistic.

Office of the Prime Minister PS Mohamed Isahakia declined to comment on the extent of the disagreement when we contacted him.

“I prefer you get the details from the Ministry of housing. My ministry is not involved,” Dr Isahakia said.

Kosgey, however, did not confirm or deny that they had differed with representatives of Shell and BP. He said the committee was discussing with the company with a host of options on the table.

“We have never told anyone we had settled on Shell and BP. We have several options and no one can monopolise,” he said.

President Kibaki kept off Harambee House until early this year. He has now made it routine to work from the office at least once a week, breaking from his past habit of sticking to State House for official matters.

The building provides office for the President, Ministry of Public Service, Ministry of Internal Security and Provincial Administration, Head of Public Service, Administration Police headquarters and the Directorate of Personnel Management.

Raila operates from temporary offices at Treasury building where departmental offices under him are also located. His parliamentary secretariat has been allocated the office formerly reserved for the Leader of the Official Opposition at Parliament Buildings.