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Years later, ambitious county projects remain incomplete

By Steve Mkawale and Kipchumba Kemei | May 4th 2014 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Steve Mkawale and Kipchumba Kemei

Kenya: Several projects started under a Sh22billion programme five years ago during the tenure of President Uhuru Kenyatta as Minister for Finance have either stalled, lie idle or become ‘white elephants’.

When the president unveiled it in the 2009/2010 Budget speech, many agreed the programme was a genius idea coming at the opportune moment when the country’s economy was on a downward trend and needed to be salvaged urgently.

The programme was crafted on the premise of being the engine that would restore the economy on a growth path, expand economic opportunities and create employment, but the economic stimulus programme (ESP) has failed to live up to its billing.

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To jumpstart it, the Government identified numerous projects per constituency, which were funded with more than Sh100 million in every constituency.

Support economy

Many Kenyans were hopeful that if completed the ESP projects would support the local economy through creation of jobs and business opportunities and generate enough food at the constituency level.

Out of the initiative came the construction of schools, health centres, Jua Kali sheds and establishment of fishponds for the purposes of diversifying food production.

County Governments now want the National Government to either hand over the stalled projects to them or channel more money through the Constituency Development Fund to complete them.

In Nakuru County, some projects that cost millions of shillings have stalled because the National Government failed to pay contractors their dues.

Notable projects are the Wakulima Hawkers’ Business Complex and the Free Area market, which cost over Sh40 million. The two projects are 90 per cent complete and cannot be occupied because the National Government is yet to clear with the contractors.

The Free Area market in the outskirts of the town - designed to accommodate more than 700 traders and which cost taxpayers about Sh25 million, has not been operational since its completion two years ago.

Mirugi Kariuki Health centre in Nakuru East Constituency is another project under the ESP that is yet to be opened.

The project is 90 per cent complete but financial issues between the Government and the contractor has denied residents a chance to enjoy its use.

The health centre is one of the facilities that the County Government of Nakuru has earmarked for takeover after the completion of an audit on the project.

Jua Kali sheds in Nakuru, Rongai, Molo and Kuresoi that were each allocated Sh6 million are yet to be completed, but traders decided to occupy them after it took the contractor long to finalise work.

The County Government of Nakuru has shown interest in taking up the incomplete projects in the next financial year for the purpose of creating jobs for the youth and opening up business opportunities.

Allocate money

Governor Kinuthia Mbugua has said his administration has written to the National Government with an intention of taking up some of the projects that are key to the county development agenda.

“We plan to allocate some money to complete the stall in the next financial year that begins in June.

But that will be subject to the response of the National Government, which is yet to clear with the contractors who were awarded the jobs,” said the governor in an interview.

An audit of the project has already been undertaken by the County Government and findings will be used to ensure completion of the projects.

Mbugua regretted that the project, alongside a hawkers’ complex in Nakuru town, had taken long to complete, but assured traders that the County Government would clear both tasks in good time.

In Sotik Constituency, a fresh produce market that was envisaged to change the face of the region was due for completion by January 2012 but the project has also stalled.

So is the construction of a Sh70 million hawkers’ market that was commissioned in 2011 but is yet to be completed.

The construction of the Sotik Industrial Development Centre or Jua Kali sheds project stalled in February 2012 and money returned to the Treasury due to the slow pace of construction work.

However, work at the sheds resumed later in the year and has since been completed but the project is underutilised.

In Narok County, two markets that were to house 700 small-scale traders in Narok town and Ololung’a; and a model school at Ngoringori areas have stalled for lack of funds.

The structures at the market that were established on a private parcel of land have since been turned into ‘homes’ by street families.

The landowner had moved to court to stop the construction, saying the project was initiated on a land he had purchased for his own use.

“It is sad that a market project which could have gone a long way to alleviate poverty and subsidise food prices is going to waste. If we had visionary and selfless leaders, the problems that stood in the way to its completion could have been sorted out,” laments Waihenya Dikir, a former Masikonde Ward councilor within the defunct Narok Town Council.

He says those who could have been allocated stalls there could not have been paying the County Government rent, thus lowering the prices of food and creating employment.

Structures in place

He adds that the issue could not have been sorted out because it was being undertaken by the Treasury.

“The fact that these projects were being implemented in formerly Orange Democratic Movement party zones leads credence to the belief that it could have succeeded because it could have given Uhuru who had indicated that he was going for the presidency in last year’s General Election,” Mr Waihenya tells The Standard On Sunday.

He says structures on ESP projects were put in place but implementation was a problem and asks the president to fund their completion because it was his baby.

George Munji, who was the ESP projects co-ordinator based at Treasury then says the projects were meant to uplift the economic standards of the locals, adding that every aspect of it had been budgeted for.

Undue delays

“No money was returned to the Treasury. In fact, in areas where there were no issues, funds were well used and all projects were completed and they are now benefiting residents,” he adds.

The immediate former Narok South MP Nkoidila Lankas says the model school that was built in his former constituency was supposed to have been a centre of excellence in the whole of Narok County and urges the Treasury to disburse funds for its completion.

During the inspection of the projects, the president who was then Finance Minister lamented there were undue delays and even went ahead and engaged contractors who were on site. Most projects in Narok were abandoned before the end of 2012 and contractors who some had already been paid left the sites in what locals and some politicians blame on lack of monitoring.

Narok County Communication Manager Diana Daido says no money was allocated in the current financial year for the projects for completion, raising fears that though noble, they would remain useless.

“No money was allocated to them. The projects were being undertaken by the National Government and it is highly unlikely that their completion would be funded by the county,” she says.

white elephants Uhuru Kenyatta economic stimulus programme employment opportunities
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