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VAS

Shame of Sh22b disused markets and fish ponds wasting away

NAIROBI
By Everlyne Kwamboka | August 10th 2019
The disused Maragua market which was constructed under the Economic Stimulus Package. Traders rejected it over claims that it was not accessible to customers. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

When they were launched in 2009 they were described as a stroke of economic genius.

Ten years later, they are shells, eyesores and white elephants -- abandoned, forgotten and neglected.

The Sh22 billion Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), a brainchild of the then Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former President Kibaki has added swell to the growing list of phantom projects conceived at the top but soiled in the bottom.

Launched in 2009 by the Kibaki administration to boost economic growth, most of its projects are incomplete and others pose a danger to residents.

The projects included construction of fish ponds, markets, jua kali sheds, slaughter houses, planting of trees, social structures such as schools, health centres and roads.

However, the situation is dire in most counties where millions of shillings were sunk, as the disused markets are an eyesore while fish ponds are death traps

The government was to construct and stock 28,200 fish ponds, each with 1,000 fingerlings in 160 constituencies.

For instance, the government spent Sh11.4 billion to dig fish ponds and construct dams and most of them are now gathering algae as farmers count losses.

In his 2015-2015 report, Auditor General Edward Ouko raised issues on ESP liabilities worth Sh78.9 million accrued on trade and other balances as at June 2016.

Outstanding

“As explained by management in the previous year, these allowances are owed to Stimulus Project Management Committees and Constituency Tender Committees which are operating under the ESP. The amount has been outstanding in the books of accounts for long after the ESP ceased to exist,” read part of the report on the Ministry of Agriculture.

He said the amount had not been analysed or supported with documentation, adding that its validity and accuracy could not under the circumstances be ascertained.

In a Hansard report for October 27, 2010, Kenyatta told the National Assembly that the Finance Ministry came up with a framework and a report on the ESP projects was to be tabled before the House on completion.

He said local leaders were involved in the project, adding that monitoring and tendering was conducted to ensure accountability at the grassroots level.

“We wanted the involvement of local leaders, especially in the process of identifying where these projects were to be built,” he told the House.

And in 2011, the government launched a Geographical Information System to monitor the projects with an aim of making them more efficient, accountable and transparent to the public but this also did not work.

Lack of monitoring

However, due to lack of monitoring and evaluation of the project, harvesting of fish has reduced from 21,000 tonnes to 1.5 tonnes per month in Nyeri County.

In Nakuru County, the Principal Fisheries officer Kiarie Kahareri said the government allocated Sh60 million for construction of ponds, stocking, feeds and purchase of institutional liners but only 50 per cent are operational.

The picture is not any different in Kakamega where the construction of a Sh68 million fish processing plant stalled. DAS Group, an investor, who had agreed to bring in Sh100 million for the completion of the project withdrew due to issues touching on land ownership.

Spot checks in markets within counties such as Nyeri, Kisumu, Machakos, Naivasha, Kiambu and Kisumu reveal the structures were abandoned several years ago and some of them have been turned in to homes by street children. Others are storerooms for itinerant traders.

Some of the projects were completed in counties such as Kisumu and Machakos, but traders declined to occupy them arguing that the stalls were few compared to the number of registered traders.

While some county governments have decided complete a number of the stalled projects, others are still waiting for the national government to officially hand them over.

The Saturday Standard established that counties that have started working on the projects did not receive any records or inventories from the national government when institutions such the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries were devolved.

In Machakos County, the Director of Trade Peter Mwololo said Makadara market in Athi River was not handed over to the county officially.

New market

Despite having been completed by the national government, traders who had been relocated to pave way for the construction of the market declined to move back due to the size. It has 24 stalls against 300 traders.

“The projects were not handed over officially and some of the contractors did not receive their payments. We cannot continue seeing the traders suffering by operating along by the roadside and that is why we have to consult widely,” he said.

The county has been looking for ways to expand the marketand even had talks with a quantity surveyor but their efforts did not yield any fruits.

The surveyor is said to have quoted a Bill of Quantities of more than Sh7 million to expand the market, a figure the county felt was exorbitant given the amount of work that was to be done.

The county decided to expand the market after the national government went silent on the project even after placing an advertisement in 2017 seeking bidders to complete the market.

The Makadara market chairman, Wilson Mwema said there is need for the county and national governments to call for a meeting with the traders in order to find a way forward.

He said traders who were moved out of the site to pave way for the construction are selling their goods in insecure locations with no street lights.

Completed by the county

In Mandera County where the projects were not handed over, CEC for Agriculture and Fisheries Ms Johora Mohamed said construction of a slaughter house started in 2011 in Rahamu but the county government completed the work in 2015.

“The slaughter house that benefits Rahamu community with a population of 30,000 was officially opened in 2017,” she said.

The national government had spent Sh24million on the project that was completed by the county at an additional cost of Sh15 million.

Kinuthia Wamwangi, the chair of the defunct Transition Authority said it is illegal for the counties to acquire what is not legally theirs, adding that there will be queries by the anti-graft body at the end of the day on how money was spent on such projects.

“We did not receive funding to prepare inventories for the ministries that were devolved and as we speak now, nobody knows what they owned. We only received funding from the Treasury to prepare inventory for the local government,” he added.

Wamwangi said they visited several ministries to discuss the issue but some of them declined despite TA having worked on a guiding framework for the exercise.

Last year, the president ordered for the completion of projects that may have stalled due to lack of funds or suffered from changing of priorities before investing in any new ones.

At the National Treasury, the Saturday Standard was told that the ESP office chaired by the Permanent Secretary was disbanded few years ago.

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