Premium

Audit exposes government's weak preparations to respond to floods

An aerial photo of a flooded village near Lake Baringo. [Courtesy]

An audit by the Office of the Auditor General has revealed inadequacies in the country's flood disaster response, even as El Nino rains loom.

The audit covered four flood-prone catchment areas, six counties of Baringo, Narok, Busia, Garissa, Tana River and Kisumu from July 2017 to June 2022.

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu noted that government response to flood disaster emergencies was characterised by inadequacies and deficiencies.

Despite the government generating flood early warning information through the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and Water Resources Authority (WRA), there was lack of early action from government actors and the community.

"Most of the time, the administrators convened meetings to discuss issues of relief distribution and other broader response issues, such as flood impacts and evacuation of victims after the occurrence of floods," the report noted. The audit found that despite floods being one of the natural disasters, there was no national focal agency to spearhead flood management.

"The audit observed that functions of each level of government were not clearly defined. Consequently, the responses were characterised by duplication of efforts, lack of accountability, and non-action, especially from county governments," the audit revealed.

The lack of a clear mandate on flood response, according to OAG, could be attributed to lack of a legal framework for flood management.

Interviews and reviews by the OAG revealed that national policy in disaster management was drafted in 2002 and two decades later, the policy was still in draft form.

"Attempts to enact a national law of Disaster Response Management (DRM) commenced in 2018, but no law had been finalised," the report noted.

At the county level, only Tana River County has developed a DRM law and policy, while Baringo had a policy but was yet to finalise the law. Busia and Kisumu counties enacted DRM laws, but had no policies in place.

The National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) according to the audit is expected to undertake disaster response coordination at national level, while national administration officers were responsible for coordination at county level.

However, the audit revealed there were no staff specifically deployed for disaster coordination in the offices of county commissioners or deputy county commissioners.

Even worrying, the Directorate of Special Programmes had only two officers in place of the required 13 staff. "It was reported that the Directorate has three technical staff seconded by the Ministry of Devolution. The five staff members were expected to undertake relief and rehabilitation activities for various types of disasters throughout the country."

Further, the audit revealed that though floods were almost annual occurrence, there was no specific budget for flood response.

"The auditors understanding is that floods are almost an annual occurrence which should be budget for and monies from Contingencies Fund should be drawn only after the budget is exhausted," said the report.

Despite NDOC being established in 1998, the audit found that there was no legal framework to properly institutionalise it as a national government lead coordinator in disaster response.

The audit also reveals that there was lack of designated evacuation centres, inadequate basic amenities in evacuation camps and fear of loss of property left behind in their homes.

"The lack of early action on floods early warnings may be attributed to the lack of a framework for "early warning action" in the country.

According to the audit, none of the counties samples for audit had mapped evacuation routes, while in some counties like Kisumu the evacuation centres were in a dilapidated state.

"In the absence of designated centres, flood victims sought temporary shelters in schools, churches, social halls and raised open grounds.

Interviews and physical verification revealed that facilities in schools used as evacuation centres were often damaged, but the schools were not assisted in repairing their facilities after flood victims vacated.

A physical verification at Ombaka Primary School in Nyando which housed the 2020 flood victims had all classroom damaged and ablution blocks destroyed.

A review by the audit office showed that affected communities are only provided with food items, leaving out other items essential for their stay in evacuation camps.

Of 165 flood relief correspondences provided for audit from samples counties, 126 were relief allocation letters with no corresponding relief request documents.

The audit further showed, due to inefficient record's management and accountability mechanism, it was difficult to monitor relief supplies.

The OAG report further noted lack of "Early Warning, Early Action" framework even though the KMD and WRA provided flood early warning information.

The Auditor General recommended that the State Departments of Internal Security and ASALs and Regional development should have the national disaster risk management policy and law enacted.

She further asked the two departments to finalise development of National Relief Assistance Policy to resolve inefficiencies.

Ms Gathungu asked NDOC to liaise with office of Deputy President and Council of Governors to fast-track clarification and gazettement of disaster risk management functions.

According to NDOC there were 76 reported deaths and 1,024,290 people displaced by floods in 2020.

Business
Ndung'u budget could make life worse for Kenyans, experts warn
Opinion
Premium From Canaan to crisis: The reality of broken promises, economic missteps
Business
Fuel price relief for motorists as tax pain awaits in Finance Bill
By VOA 55 mins ago
Business
Disease, extreme weather push up orange juice prices