Senate Mashinani opens opportunity for locals in Turkana

Senate Speaker Amason Kingi (centre) together with Majority leader Aaron Cheruiyot and Minority leader Stewart Madzayo when they were crowned as Turkana elders in a ceremony held at the Turkana County Assembly on the conclusion of the Senate Mashinani sittings. [Edwin Nyarangi, Standard]

Residents of Turkana have expressed optimism after the Senate held its sittings in Lodwar, Turkana last week.

The third Senate Mashinani was held from September 25 to 29.

After Speaker Amason Kingi reconvened the house, various senate committees took time to look at various issues which have held back the vast county, despite receiving more than Sh100 billion over the last ten years of devolution.

Senate's County Public Accounts Committee wants officials in former Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok's administration held accountable for hiked pending bills amounting to more than Sh5 billion for the financial year 2020/2021.

The former county officials are also in a spot for spending Sh1.4 billion on domestic travel and per diem, which translated to Sh3.8 million daily during the same period despite travel and meeting restrictions at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While appearing before the committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang, Turkana governor Jeremiah Lomorukai told the committee the funds might have been lost during the time of his predecessor Josephat Nanok.

Nanok is currently the Deputy Head of Public Service. They recommended the EACC to probe former County officials involved in the impropriety of the funds.

“The findings in the audit report for the financial year 2020/2021 for Turkana county are sickening, how can the former county leadership plan to steal Sh5 billions of public money, no wonder the county has got little to show for over Sh100 billion allocated to it since the advent of devolution ten years ago,” he said.

Residents were excited about the various senate house committees who began to scrutinize the utilization of the funds that were allocated to the County, yet nothing was to show on the ground.

James Ewoi, a resident of Lodwar, praised the Senate, saying they addressed most of the problems facing Turkana people, especially corruption, insecurity, starvation, health, education and other critical infrastructure.

“We are optimistic that the recommendation made by various house committees to relevant graft bodies to hold accountable those leaders who embezzled the funds should be taken seriously,” Ewoi said.

Another resident, Ruth Akai, 35, lauded the senate for bringing the third Senate session to Mashinani, saying the senators have carried out their constitutional mandate to check on the progress of the devolved units and prudent use of funds in the vast region.

“We are happy that some of the Senate committee, especially the one for Agriculture, Livestock and fisheries, were able to tour the stalled Katilu irrigation scheme and witnessed the sorry state of the farming that has been wasted due to insecurity and lack of farm inputs, “We hope it will be revamped,” Akai said.

Akai said Turkana has the potential to feed its population and supply to the rest of Kenyans if the region is put into large agricultural production.

The Agriculture Committee led by James Murago promised to boost the irrigation scheme in Katilu and address conflicts pitting Turkana and neighbouring Pokot communities that had hindered food production in the region.

“Places with good farms rarely produce like this think it’s important to address insecurity as well as provide subsidized fertilizers as a means of promoting agricultural production in this vast region,” Senator Murago said.

The Senators also raised concern over the oil exploration, which has been going on for years in the Lokichar basin.

Turkana senator James Lomenen asked the energy committee to investigate why the first crude oil that was sold to China, Turkana, did not get their entitled five per cent share.

“We demand to know the share of the five per cent oil proceeds for the community and 20 per cent for the County after the first crude oil was sold to a China-based firm,” Lomenen said.

Some of the critical issues noted by the Senate include, despite the location of the Turkwel Hydroelectric power station and the Lake Turkana Wind power, the county is not connected to the national grid.

Senators also witnessed numerous blackouts in major urban towns, among them Lodwar, Kainuk, Lokichar, Kakuma, Kalokol, Lokichoggio and Lokitaung, as a result of faulty generators and ineffective mini-grid power stations that supply electricity to residents.

Nairobi senator and deputy minority whip regretted that a town like Lodwar, which has attained the status of a full-fledged municipality was still struggling with power outages.

“Lodwar is not on the national electricity grid. One of the main generators failed recently, and residents have been experiencing rolling blackouts. Out of our engagement here, Kenya Power has confirmed to me that a line from Loyangalani to Lodwar is in the works. This will come as great relief to residents here," Sifuna stated in a tweet dated September 27, 2023.