Heated debate as Regional Authority defends its development record

Uasin Gishu County Deputy Governor Daniel Kiprotich (center) with Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) Managing Director Evans Atera (left) and LBDA chair Odoyo Owidi at Tom Mboya Labor college in Kisumu on January 23,2019 where LBDA called several leaders to scrutinize their strategic plan. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard]

Officials of a regional development body were yesterday at pains to name the projects the body had successfully implemented since it was established 40 years ago.

The Lake Basin Development Authority’s management board came under fire during a consultative meeting where they had invited leaders and industry experts to scrutinise their new Sh39 billion strategic plan for the next five years.

Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno challenged the authority, which serves 18 counties in western Kenya and Rift Valley, to list the projects they had undertaken and their impact on the region.

Mr Chemno threatened to challenge LBDA’s five-year plan in court if the agency proceeded to launch it without going to the 18 counties for consultation, saying that Uasin Gishu had not received a single LBDA official since 2013.

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“We cannot accept a sexed-up document made up by a few individuals sitting in a hotel to dictate how regional development is done. No one came to us to ask what our priority areas are and as it is, there is no single project in Uasin Gishu that we can pinpoint and say ‘this was done by LBDA’,” Chemno said.

Brick factory

He claimed that since its establishment, the LBDA could only boast of Homa Bay’s Sh8.7 billion Oluch Kimira irrigation project, which has since been taken over by the national government, a brick factory in Kisii, and the Lake Basin Development Mall whose official opening has been delayed for several months.

LBDA chairman Odoyo Owidi, however, was quick to jump to the parastatal’s defence.

Mr Owidi dismissed Chemno’s sentiments as misinformed, saying that they represented the misconceptions the public had of the regional development authority.

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Owidi said that whereas they had achieved little success relative to their ambitious plans, a number of factors, including dismal funding, Government ill-will and internal incapacitation, were to blame.

The chair said the authority did not have an anchor project that would sustain its operations and limit its dependence on the Exchequer. He accused the national government of taking away the Sondu Miriu hydro-power project and handing it to the Kenya Electricity Generation Company.

“And when we had conceptualised the Oluch Kimira irrigation project and finalised plans, the project was given to a Government ministry for central management. Even the Lake Basin Mall was conceptualised in the 1980s but funds for its construction were used to build the Kerio Valley Development Authority Plaza in Eldoret,” said Owidi. 

He revealed that as part of the Sh39 billion plan, the authority would push for the implementation of the Nandi multipurpose and Magwagwa dams with a combined potential to generate over 200 megawatts of electricity and bring large swathes of irrigable land under agriculture.

Owidi also criticised governors from the Lake Region Economic Bloc who recently called for the folding of LBDA and the authority’s mandate handed over to 14 counties.

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“I know counties may be eyeing our assets, especially land, but let us look at the bigger picture: LREB is funded from money that is already in the county coffers for development while ours comes from the National Treasury. Why would you want to close that tap?” he posed.

He said the counties, with nearly Sh6 billion for development, were unable to pinpoint growth while LBDA ‘was leaving footprints on a Sh500 million budget’.

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Lake Basin Development AuthorityUasin GishuDeputy Governor Daniel ChemnoLBDAOdoyo Owidi