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Sh100 billion stalled projects hang over CS James Macharia’s head

By Dominic Omondi | October 23rd 2019
By Dominic Omondi | October 23rd 2019

Promises to re-develop Nairobi’s Eastlands, which includes estates such as Makongeni, Kaloleni, Ziwani, Shauri Moyo and Jericho, now sound like a broken vinyl disc.

Nairobi, Kenya: Projects valued at more than Sh100 billion have stalled or are mired in controversy, a fact that must weigh heavily on the mind of Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

Mr Macharia has failed to deliver key infrastructure such as bridges, highways, seaports and airports despite the projects being heavily touted as vital to the development agenda.

Civil servants and police continue to endure deplorable housing as plans to build them modern apartments continue to collect dust in Government offices.

There were 545 stalled projects valued at Sh366 billion as of June last year, according to a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).

Eighty-seven of these projects valued at around Sh100 billion fall under Macharia’s docket.

In the Ministry of Transport, Housing and Public Works, Sh79 billion worth of projects are still awaiting implementation.

Macharia did not respond to our questions on why his ministry is weighed down by so many unfinished projects.

Some of the projects such as the Sh56 billion Greenfield Terminal at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport have not simply stalled, they were killed when it became clear that they could not be executed.

Then there are grandiose projects like the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport Corridor that have continued to chew through billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money without any signs of when they will ever show a return on investment.

The Bus Rapid Transit system recently joined the list of projects hastily cobbled together, including the Nairobi Metropolitan Regional Plan, which has never left the paper it was drafted on.

Promises to re-develop Nairobi’s Eastlands, which includes estates such as Makongeni, Kaloleni, Ziwani, Shauri Moyo and Jericho, now sound like a broken vinyl disc.

Poor implementation

In Mombasa, construction of the Sh40 billion Kipevu Oil Terminal has had its fair share of scandals even as it has progressed in fits and starts over the past three years.

The PBO said poor implementation processes and inherent weaknesses in project appraisal and management have resulted in delayed returns to the economy, leading to less-than-desired economic performance.

The parliamentary think-tank also cited insufficient allocation of funds to projects, revenue under-performance, non-payment of contractors and even litigation cases in courts for delays in completing the projects.

“This means that the issue of proper management of projects right from the appraisal, cost-benefit analysis, eventual funding and inclusion in the Budget estimates is not properly managed,” said the PBO.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently directed that all new projects, save for those related to his Big Four agenda, be frozen until ongoing works are completed.

Procurement for projects ranging from construction of airstrips, police stations, geothermal power plants, schools and dozens of roads have been put on hold.

White elephant

The directive that started being implemented in the previous Budget calendar is now in its second year. President Kenyatta hopes this will help to reduce the number of white elephant projects.

Macharia could also be in luck because most of his departments will either be directly involved in the implementation of the Big Four agenda, for example, the Housing Department will be in charge of the Housing pillar, or they will be critical drivers of Uhuru’s legacy programme.

In his Budget speech in June, suspended Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said National Treasury had come up with regulations that would vet all infrastructure projects before they were committed in the Budget “in order to establish their value for money, affordability and economic return for the benefit of the current and future generations in line with the Constitution”.

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