Mandera residents were stranded after River Dawa burst its banks following a heavy downpour. [File, Standard]

The State Department of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asals) is now seeking Sh7.2 billion to address the effects of flooding and feed vulnerable families across the country in the 2024/25 financial year.

Heavy rains have for the past month wreaked havoc in the country with more than 200 people losing their lives, thousands displaced and infrastructure destroyed.

Asals Principal Secretary Kello Harsama sought for the approval of the billions of shillings by Parliament in a bid to deal with the already dire situation.

The National Assembly Departmental Committee on Regional Development committee is currently considering the 2024/25 financial year estimates and the 2023/24 financial year supplementary estimates II. The State Department had appeared before it seeking funds for additional expenditure.

According to documents tabled before the House team, out of the total Sh7.2 billion, Sh3.3 billion will be channeled towards relief intervention for non-food items for rehabilitation and the reconstruction for 67,000 households totaling to 600,000 people.

“Following the aftermath of the floods and droughts in the country, there is a need for escalated response in interventions. We urge this committee to favorably look into the matter and recommend for additional funding in order to assist those affected," submitted Harsama.

He said Sh3.93 billion will be expended through the National Disaster and Management Authority (NDMA) under its Hunger Safety Net Programme (HNSP), which is the social cash transfer project targeting poor and vulnerable households in Asal counties.

Counties set to benefit from the HNSP include Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Garissa, Tana River, Isiolo, and Samburu. HNSP is one of four cash transfer programmes under the National Safety Net Programme (NSNP) collectively called Inua Jamii. The other three programmes are Older Persons Cash Transfer, Cash Transfers for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the Persons with Severe Disability Cash Transfer.

 “We are focused on building resilience through the design and support implementation of livelihood diversification programmes to ensure that the Asal communities become self-reliant. There is a need for the government to make a deliberate effort to put more investments in Asals as this is the only way to unlock the potential of these areas,” added the PS.

The committee also heard that climate change had continued to affect the operations and activities of the state department with some of the effects being flooding, drought, change in rainfall patterns, drying up of rivers, migration of pests (locusts), depletion of pasture and receding of water bodies that pose threat to human life and livelihoods.

To this end, the state department is seeking an extra Sh5 billion to go towards the fruit tree programme which is part of the presidential directive in support to the planting of 15 billion trees.

At the same time, PS Harsama protested the slashing of funding for Semi-Autonomous Government Agencies (SAGAs) under his department noting that it would negatively impact 54 ongoing projects being undertaken by the institutions.

He revealed that during the Budget Estimates allocation, the SAGAs had been allocated Sh8.74 billion for their recurrent expenditure but the figure had now been reduced to Sh3.58 billion in the approved budget policy ceilings.

The SAGAs include NDMA, Kerio Valley Development Authority, Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority, Lake Basin Development Authority, Ewaso Nyiro South Development Authority, Coast Development Authority and the Ewaso Nyoro North Development Authority.

The PS singled out NDMA which he said bore the brunt of the budget cuts and expressed fears that its current funding would be inadequate to facilitate its mandate. NDMA has been allocated a recurrent expenditure budget of Sh2.28 billion, down from an earlier Sh6.3 billion.

Committee chair Peter Lochakapong observed that there may be a deliberate attempt by the Government to suffocate the SAGAs and assured that they would take this into account during report writing in a bid to get a way forward.

“As for the 54 projects that you have projected, we will first have to inspect them before we allocate the resources.  This is because what is presented to the committee and what is on the ground rarely align,” said Lochakapong.

Fafi MP Salah Yakub faulted the PS for not presenting a detailed report on the projects in particular, the constituencies they are located in and the names of the specific projects.

The chair consequently directed that the list of expenditures on the projects be provided by the PS and his team expeditiously.