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Taxpayers lose billions as Uhuru’s ESP projects lie idle 12 years later

By Julius Chepkwony | June 19th 2021

The stalled Sh 18 Million Mogotio tannery in Baringo county. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A Sh18 million tannery sits idle in Mogotio, Baringo County.

A Sh98 million market goes unused in Litein town, Kericho County.

Three other markets that cost a total of Sh30 million in Nyandarua are unoccupied as traders continue to operate on the roadside.

As President Uhuru Kenyatta nears the end of his term in office, he is leaving behind abandoned or incomplete projects across the country, which he initiated 11 years ago when he was minister for Finance.

More than Sh20 billion in taxpayers’ funds went in to these projects bankrolled under Economic Stimulus Programme in the financial year 2009/2010.

The projects include farm produce markets, schools, jua kali sheds and buildings that were supposed to be hospitals or factories for value addition.

At the time the programme was initiated, the economic growth rate had declined from 7.1 per cent in 2007 to 1.7 per cent in 2009.

This was due to the 2007/2008 post-election violence that left more than 1,000 Kenyans dead, hundreds injured and thousands displaced from their homes.

The idea was excellent and Kenyans were expectant and hoped that once completed, the projects would transform their lives.

There are success stories.

Hundreds of markets are operational, health facilities that were later taken over by county governments are in use and residents are benefiting from some water projects.

However, even completed projects for the most part fell far short of the original goal, according to a survey conducted by The Standard to find out what happened to the programme and the projects under it.

Untapped market

In Mogotio, Baringo County, the national government pumped in Sh18 million towards the construction of a livestock improvement centre.

The incomplete tannery is now in ruins with overgrown vegetation and some of the machines that were installed, are rusting away.

The national government pumped in Sh18 million towards the construction. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The project, which started in 2009, was the brainchild of Kimora Self-help Group.

Members of the group approached the government to fund the construction so they could exploit the untapped market that is in value addition to hides and skins.

John Cheruiyot, the secretary at Kimora Self-help Group, is perplexed by the way the government abandoned the project and rarely talk of it.

Motors and other equipment imported from Turkey, he said, are lying idle.

Kimora is calling on both the national and county governments to join hands and complete the project so that local livestock farmers can benefit.

“The project requires at least Sh25 million for connecting electricity and water and setting up lagoons so that work can start,” he said.

Joel Koima, the Baringo Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries executive says the facility requires more than the stated Sh25 million to begin operations.

“We had to go back to the drawing board when we realised the huge sums of money the project needed to fully operationalise,” Koima says.

In Litein town, Bureti Constituency, traders have abandoned the Sh98 million market that has sheds and space and instead operate in the open.

John Kamau, the Kericho county commissioner did not seem to know much about the market.

“Twelve years is a long time,” he said when contacted for comment.

“I was never here when the construction started. I need time to find out what actually happened.”

However, former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett remembers how he made a successful application to Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, who was then a minister for Local Government, for the construction of the market.

“After the land was made available, the then ministry of Local Government took over the project, tendered for it, picked the contractor, mobilised the funds and the contractor began the works,” Bett said. “My role ended there.”

But the former State House Comptroller lost his parliamentary seat to his successor Leonard Sang during the 2013 General Election.

Drainage system

“In my handover report, I asked him (Sang) to follow up on the project and make sure that it’s finalised and handed over,” said Bett.

The little work that the contractor did before taking off a few months before devolution, leaves a lot to be desired

The floor is full of cracks which also run up the pillars of the market.

The market doesn’t have operational toilets, lacks proper drainage systems proper waste disposal systems and fire assembly points in case of an emergency.

In Nyandarua County, Soko Mpya, Ruriundu and Ndaragwa markets that were constructed at a cost Sh30 million took more than eight years to be completed.

But they are yet to be occupied by traders who prefer selling their produce along the highways.

The stalled tannery does not have operational toilets, lacks proper drainage and fire assembly points. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

“They are far from the roads whereas we rely on travelers to buy our produce.

“We wish that they were built nearer,” said Jane Muthoni.

But Raphael Njui, the Nyandarua Trade executive said the projects were started by the national government and they are yet to be handed over to the county government.

“That is why they are still unoccupied.

“We are in talks with the national government to hand them to us now that they are completed so that traders can now work from there,” he said

In Narok County, Uhuru Market that was one of the projects under Economic Stimulus Programmes is lying idle despite it being completed in 2010.

The fence that had been erected around the market, which is near Majengo slums in the outskirts of Narok town, has since been vandalised.

Traders blatantly declined to move into the new market citing its “poor location” and opted to remain in the markets within the town.

In 2018, enraged traders landed on the market land and took over some stalls, but the county government demolished the temporary structures that they had put up.

The traders, however, held demonstrations over the move but their cries fell on deaf ears and they had to go back to their original places of work.

According to Peter Kimiriny, a local trader, the business people shied from moving in due to several factors.

“That place is insecure because it is near a slum,” said Kimiriny.

“The place is far and our many customers are within the town centre. For those reasons, we resisted.” 

He has, however, called on the national government to consider improving the state of the markets within the town instead of investing on mega projects without consulting residents.

Parsaloi Torome, the Narok Town MCA said he has been following on the project for a while with the county and national governments.

“This market is important and since it has stalled, I have been in talks with the government on ways of making it attractive to traders by improving accessibility, enhancing security and improving infrastructure,” said Torome.

[Additional reporting by Nikko Tanui, Robert Kiplagat and James Munyeki]

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