MPs summon CS Eugene Wamalwa over Sh14 billion Eurobond proceeds in irrigation docket

Water and Irrigation PS Dr Richard Lesiampe (L) and National Irrigation Board General Manager Eng Daniel Barasa consult when they appeared before the National Assembly Delegated Committee on Agriculture at Continental House Nairobi on Friday. PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO

NAIROBI: Members of Parliament Friday summoned the Cabinet Secretary for Water and Irrigation Eugene Wamalwa to give an account on Jubilee government's one million acre irrigation project.

At the committee meeting which Wamalwa had failed to appear, Acting Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe could not comprehensively account for the Sh14 billion Eurobond proceeds that was purportedly used to finance the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project which is part of the one million acreage Jubilee plan.

In the three hour grilling by the Agriculture Committee, Mr Lesiyampe failed to impress the members with his breakdown that Sh10, 864, 500,000 was specifically used for irrigation with the remaining Sh4 billion utilized on water resource management.

The committee demanded an embellishment of how the ministry ended up receiving the amount distributed through the financial years 2013 through to 2015 which Lesiyampe argued was meant to revive some of the 270 stalled irrigation projects across the country.

However, Lesiyampe could not comprehensively give an account forcing the Cabinet Secretary to be summoned to appear before the committee in two weeks.

Committee Member Opiyo Wandai noted the misappropriations in the report saying that it was not realistic for the government to commence on a Sh14 billion project whereas others had stalled, requiring only Sh7.2 billion to be revived.

"This is a project bound to fail now with not even the leaders on the ground being involved. The report alleges that Governors of Tana River and Kilifi Counties are part of the stakeholders yet we know this is a project micro-managed pre-dominantly by the government," said Wandayi.

Wandayi questioned the tendering procedure used to award the project to Green Arava after paying the same firm Sh1 billion to carry out a feasibility study before granting it the Sh14 billion tender: "The same firm now wants to hire expertise to investigate over the poor yield of the first 500acre pilot project and the need of having a maize mill incorporated in the project. The harvested maize now has to be transported to Voi and Nairobi for storage which costs more."

Lesiyampe however defended the poor yield of 542 tons on the 500 acres saying they are mixed results from 16 varieties of maize which translated to a total of 6,022 bags with the least being 10 bags per acre.

"The contractor had promised 40 bags of maize per acre to the least after the feasibility test. There are farms in Trans Nzoia that yield 40 bags without billions in irrigation infrastructure depending purely on rain fed agriculture. Poor yield is not an excuse in this case," said Wandayi.

Committee Chair Adan Noor said he found the tabled report with gaps that the Principal Secretary could not give satisfactory explanations in his acting capacity despite being accompanied with National Irrigation Board Manager Engineer Daniel Barasa who has all along been part of the project.

"According to the report planting is going to be done progressively yet after harvesting 500 acres you are still planting 500 acres. Since inception in September 2014 not even 0.1 percent of the project has been achieved yet we are looking forward to having it complete by March 2016," remarked Noor.

The committee now wants the Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa to avail himself in person with a report explaining how the ministry received Sh14 billion from Eurobond and a breakdown on how it was utilized in the Galana project that some members described as 'already a failure and a big scandal in the making'.