Millions wasted on costly county projects as many stall, un-utilised

The stalled Roret pineapple processing factory is pictured at Monoru area,in Roret Division, Bureti Subcounty on July 2, 2023. [Kiprono Kurgat, Standard]

Several key projects that would have transformed the economies of counties are lying idle or incomplete even after successive governments pumped in millions of shillings to facilitate their completion.

While some have been abandoned, others were vandalised, leading to a waste of public resources.

In Kericho County, pineapple farmers have been left at the mercy of middlemen as a factory initiated over a decade ago remains incomplete.

The year 2009, looked like the new dawn for over 10,000 pineapple farmers in Roret, who were on the receiving end of post-harvest losses and exploitation for ages by middlemen.

When the farmers heard of the launch of the project at the heart of the county, they were thrilled.

In 2020, during an assessment tour of the fruit factory, former Principal Secretary (PS) in the State Department for Industrialisation Trade and Enterprise Development Dr Francis Owino said the national and county governments would work together to ensure the project was completed.

Present during the visit was former Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) Chief Executive Prof David Tuigong, who pledged to realise the production of the first batch of canned pineapples to the local market by the end of November that year.

The Kericho County government had injected Sh18 million to revive the stalled project, which was initiated by former Bureti MP Franklin Bett using the Constituency Development Fund.

Over 1,860 hectares of land are under pineapples in the sub-county, with only 70 hectares outside the area.

John Kosgei, a farmer, began planting pineapples following promises that the factory would be completed soon. To date, the project remains a dream.

Kosgei said he went out of his way to get money for quality seedlings and planted them in anticipation of bountiful returns from sales to the factory.

Kosgei now blames the county for capitalising on the aspirations of farmers to gain political mileage. “The moment we heard that the county had begun working on the factory, we were happy, but our waiting soon turned into mourning. Thirteen years later, nothing is forthcoming,” he said.

He said he may be forced to scout for new markets for his pineapples in other regions.

Some farmers stopped planting other crops, while others uprooted their tea plants and fell for pineapples after being promised that the factory was to be up soon and start operations.

Anne Bett, another pineapple farmer, said farmers were getting desperate and asked whoever was tasked to construct the factory to fast-track the project.

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In 2014, the then Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony laid a foundation stone for stalled sweet potato factory. Although the county government has spent more than Sh6 million on the project located in Soin-Sigowet Constituency, not even a single bag of sweet potatoes has been exported to the UK.

Devolution conference

Governor Chepkwony claimed that the owner of the one-acre land on which the factory was built threw a spanner in the works by demanding Sh3 million for the land.

The farmers hope the devolution conference will address the issue of stalled projects in counties across the country. A 2021/2022 audit report by the Auditor General released in May 2023 revealed that counties have spent millions of shillings on idle, stalled and vandalised projects.

In Marsabit, a Sh34.8 million fish factory at Loyangalani remains incomplete.

The audit reveals the county contracted a company for Sh34.81 million in January 2018 for the construction of a fish factory at Loyangalani for 63 weeks. The commencement date was January 12, 2019, while the completion date was projected to be June 25, 2020.

“Physical inspection carried out in September 2022 revealed that although the county executive had paid Sh30.73 million (88 per cent of the contract sum) the project was still below 50 per cent complete,” read the report in part.

The Auditor General noted that it is not clear when the project would be completed.

The report further revealed a delay in the completion of Level Four Hospital at Sololo. The County Executive had contracted a company at a contract sum of Sh483.37 million in July 2019 for the construction of a Level Four Hospital at Sololo in 78 months, with a commencement date of July 1, 2019.

The completion date was projected to be February 25, 2021. The county government as per the report, had paid the contractor Sh321.62 million but the project remains incomplete.

In West Pokot, the construction of a mango processing plant at a contract sum of Sh12.05 million has since stalled. The project contract was to start on February 2, 2021, and end on November 1, 2021.

Physical verification of the project on July 2022 revealed that the contractor had abandoned the site. A petition is alleged to have been filed in court over ownership of the land where the processing plant was being constructed.

The construction of a milk processing at Kibichbich in Pokot South Sub-County for Sh28.99 million in nine months from February 2, 2021, with an end date of November 1, 2021, remains incomplete.

For Kisumu, the county government entered into two contract agreements on September 25, 2019, for the construction and completion of the administration and ablution block and construction of the milk processing plant, cooling plant, power generator house, and zero grazing unit at Sh13.15 million and Sh13.72 million respectively.

“Site inspection carried out in November 2022 and January 2023 revealed that, although the structures had been completed, the cooling plant and the administration block remained unused. The equipment procured include milking machines, cooling plants, and the administration block had not been installed and the water tower and tank were destroyed due to the poor installation,” read the report in part.

In Kisii County, Sh2.26 million of modern Kiosks and those in Nyamira town are not in use.

In Baringo County, the report reveals projects with a budget of Sh485.41 million and cumulative payments of Sh348.470 million were either stalled or complete and not in use.

Twenty health facilities valued at Sh81.86 million, the report reveals are unutilised despite being complete due to a lack of utilities, health equipment, and personnel.

The contract value was Sh3.72 million, and Sh532,880 had been paid to the contractor.

In Marigat, the county government had planned to construct a youth empowerment centre at an estimated value of Sh7.49 million.

The project commenced in June 2015 but stalled after the contractor abandoned the site in 2016, having been paid Sh5.29 million.

In the rehabilitation of Kabarnet County Stadium at Sh45.29 million, the expected completion period for the project was 2018, but it stalled and was abandoned. Over Sh42.86 million had been paid to the contractor.

Sections of the perimeter wall, the report revealed had collapsed and materials carted away.

“The pit latrine and changing rooms valued at Sh2.69 million remained inhabitable. There was no evidence of civil works and gate installation despite the contractors being paid Sh16.78 million and Sh820,000 for the works respectively,” read the audit in part.

Eldama Ravine milk processing plant contract values Sh19.67 million, and Sh15.63 million had been paid.

The project commenced in 2015 but stalled in April 2017 after the contractor pulled out.

According to the report, a payment of Sh5.81 million was made to the contractor in June 2022 despite the contract expiring in November 2020.

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