Kilifi tourism college project to gobble up additional Sh6 billion

An artistic impression of the Ronald Ngala Utalii College and Hotel. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard].

The cost of constructing Ronald Ngala Utalii College and Hotel at Vipingo in Kilifi South sub-county is expected to go up by Sh6.1 billion.

The increase is attributed to delays in the disbursement of funds to contractors, inflation, and the high cost of construction materials.

The construction of the college expected to sit on 60 acres was started as a Vision 2030 flagship project in 2010. It was to be completed in 2018 at a cost of Sh4.9 billion.

However, officials say the facility will be ready by August 2023 and will have consumed Sh11 billion. Contractor Mulji Devraj and Brothers Limited said the first phase of the project is expected to be opened in August.

The Tourism Promotion Fund said the construction involves the setting up of administration and tuition blocks, student hostels, and lecture rooms.

The Director of Strategy and Resource Mobilization at the agency, Eden Odhiambo, on Tuesday, said phase two of the project requires Sh2.9 billion.

“The high cost of construction materials has pushed up the cost. A good example is that aluminium has gone up by 300 per cent while cement has gone up by 100 per cent. By the time we complete the project, we would have spent between Sh10 billion and Sh11 billion,” Mr Odhiambo said.

He added: “We are struggling to finance this project. We have been told we will get some funds from the Tourism Promotion Fund which will hopefully help us meet that target.”

Mr Sam Ikwae, the CEO of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, said inflation and delays in the release of funds will continue to push up the cost of the project. He appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and have the funds released so the project is completed in good time.

Mr Ikwae said the hotel is one of the Vision 2030 development projects and one of President Kenyatta’s legacy projects at the Coast.

“Tourism Promotion Fund requires funding and we understand money was released in December. Our question is, why has the money not reached Tourism Promotion Fund (TPF) accounts for the project to be completed on time?

“The reports we have received from TPF are that funds have not been coming as scheduled. The adjustment and inflation of this project mean we are going to spend a lot more, even through the fines,” Mr Ikwae said.

Ms Pauline Nduva, Diani Sea Resort operations manager and a member of the Kenya Association of Women in Tourism, was optimistic the completion of the project will turn around the quality of services in hotels.

“Our concern is the time the project has taken,” she said.

In an earlier interview, Tourism PS Zeinab Hussein said they have initiated talks with the Treasury for the phased completion of the college.

The PS said there is sufficient progress made on the construction of the facility which will be commissioned in phases.

“The first phase is at 80 per cent complete and we hope to finish it by July before commissioning that will see the first lot of 1,500 students start classes,” the PS said.

The college will be Kenya’s second-largest government-owned hospitality training facility after Utalii College in Nairobi.