Mt Kenya leaders' anger as Sh1.3bn for key water projects reallocated

When Interior CS Kithure Kindiki then Senate Deputy Speaker and Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki participated in construction of a water intake of Thigaa water irrigation project. [File, Standard]

An allocated Sh1.3 billion intended for Mt. Kenya water projects was reportedly diverted to other regions, upsetting local leaders.

They allege that the National Treasury redirected the funds to secure political support in other areas.

The government, through the Ministry of Treasury and Economic Planning, approved the reallocation on March 23 in response to a request from Water and Sanitation PS Kipronoh Ronoh.

“In this regard, the National Treasury has approved re-allocation from the following projects; Athi Water Works Development Agency (Sh300 million), Nairobi Metro Area bulk water services (Sh479 million), and Ithanga water supply,” the letter seen by The Standard reads in part.

Funds initially allocated for other projects, including Sh350 million for the Dandora sewage treatment expansion and Sh150 million for the Northern Water Works Development Agency, have been diverted. The National Water Harvesting and Ground Water Exploitation will receive Sh463 million, while the Water Sector Reforms Programme will get Sh916 million.

Of the Sh1.3 billion, Sh800 million had been approved, with Sh479 million designated for Ruiru Dam II's construction in Lari and Githunguri constituencies. Sh300 million was allocated for the final phase of water supply from Karemenu Dam, and Sh100 million for the Ithanga water project.

The Belgium government had pledged Sh2.5 billion towards some of the projects.

Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome distanced herself from the fund reallocation, stating that her office was not consulted and the move would stall ongoing projects.

In an April 25 letter to National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u, Ms Wahome stressed the projects' essential budget requirements and called the reallocation ill-informed.

“The request for the reallocation was not made in consultation with the relevant implementing water works development agencies and my concurrence was also not sought,” Wahome said in the letter that was copied to her PS.

The leaders are awaiting a response from the Treasury to see if the reallocation will be reversed.

They suspect political motives behind the funds' redirection, alleging that the budgeted money was diverted to the Ukambani region for political gains.

Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba said that the move aims to deny Mt Kenya its fair share of resources and vowed to use her political influence to oppose it.

"We feel shortchanged. The promise was broken. President William Ruto pledged to complete all unfinished projects in our region and we don’t understand why this has changed. Our numbers in Mt Kenya qualify us to receive the earmarked allocations since we have a lot of pressure on sewer lines besides pressing water needs,” the MP said.

Gatanga MP Edward Muriu described the move as ill-informed and with far-reaching political ramifications against the Kenya Kwanza government. He said although he has registered his displeasure with the highest office in the land, he will also inform his people about the move.

“The people of Gatanga are part and parcel of this government. We have equal shares as we overwhelmingly voted for it. We cannot stomach this kind of contempt. We shall go to any level to stop the injustice,” Mr Muriu said.

The MP said Ithanga, the driest part of Murang'a County, has never had piped water and that the water project would be the first of its kind in the area.

"Stalling the project was a bad gesture to the Belgium government that sponsored it. I had even approached the president to launch the project in May since it is complete and only the water connection was remaining,” he said.

The project targeted 200,000 residents and was meant to address the problem of acute water shortage in Ithanga, Ngelelya, Kakuzi and Mitubiri.

The leaders said there could be a scheme by a few people in Kenya Kwanza administration to turn residents of Mt Kenya against the president after the Sh30 billion Mau Mau Road project also stalled in unclear circumstances. 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua promised to intervene and have the road works resume. The project is expected to connect Nyandarua and Nyeri counties.

Construction of the road traversing through the Aberdare Ranges was initiated during  the last months of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s reign to ease transport between the two counties.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) announced the cancellation of the project a month after President Ruto took over the presidency.

Nyandarua Senator John Methu reiterated the significance of the road to link Nyeri and Murang’a counties, open up markets and facilitate trade.

“They are saying that the animals are the excuse. As the chairperson of the Lands, Forestry and Wildlife committee, I can assure you that no animal shall be harmed. We need that road,” said Mr Methu.

Ndaragwa MP George Gachagua noted that residents were being forced to take longer routes to connect with areas on the eastern side of the Aberdares due to the poor state of the Mau Mau Road.

“It is easier for us to go to Garissa than going to Murang'a or Nyeri. Our food is rotting on the farms because of our roads. Please, Mr President, open Mau Mau Road for us,” said Mr Gachagua.