Budget mocks bid to adopt austerity

Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa (centre) with officials from the National Irrigation Board during a tour of the Galana Kulalu model farm in 2015. [File]
More than Sh2 billion in the budget unveiled last week could be lost owing to multiple allocation of funds for the same projects.

Among the questionable budget lines is Sh900 million given to Kenya Forestry Service for tree planting programmes, and an equal allocation to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

MPs were taken aback by the blatant wastage that extended to allocating funds to the scandal-ridden National Youth Service to undertake the Galana Kulalu farming project.

Already, the massive irrigation project in Tana River County has been a failure going by the billions of shillings spent so far with minimal yields.

A clean-up exercise of Nairobi River, which is being undertaken by the county government, has resulted in generous allocations to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation.

“The Nairobi River rehabilitation project is duplicating a function that is currently carried out by the Nairobi Regeneration Programme under the Ministry of Water and Sanitation as well as the Nairobi County,” reads a review of the budget by a committee of the National Assembly.

Such multiple allocations make a mockery of Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich’s claims that the national government is keen on embracing austerity.

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Rehabilitation of the city’s rivers is part of broader efforts to protect wetlands, including planting trees, with the county allocating Sh330 million in the current financial year.

But there are fears of overlapping mandates by the different entities such as the National Environment Management Authority.

A recent push at increasing forest cover in Nairobi and the rest of the country got off to a false start last year after a prior audit of the programme indicated that some Sh2 billion spent on tree-planting may have been lost.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has for months been investigating the suspected fraud but is yet to make public any of its findings, even though senior officials are reported to have diverted the funds to own use.

Schools and communities were intended to be the lead implementation agencies for the tree-planting programme whose goal is to achieve 10 per cent forest cover in the next three years.

Currently, the country’s forest cover is just over six per cent following sustained logging and encroachment of protected areas, which has been partly blamed for droughts and drying up of rivers.

In Nakuru, for instance, the Budget and Appropriations Committee was told that some entity known as Imarisha Lake Naivasha Catchment Management project has tree planting as one of its activities, and it gets its allocations from the Government and donors, including HRH Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit.

In yet another project under the Ministry of Water, the National Lands Commission spent Sh650 million for resettlement of households displaced from an area in Gatundu North Constituency where the Karimenu II Dam is being constructed.

However, the ministry had requested and been granted Sh1.2 billion to resettle the affected residents.

The House team proposed that the funds be withdrawn and utilised in a better way.

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Kenya Forestry ServiceGalana KulaluMinistry of EnvironmentNairobi RiverCabinet Secretary Henry RotichMinistry of Water and Sanitation