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MPs quiz Kenya's loss of billions at crowded Malaba border post

By Rawlings Otieno | March 26th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Heavy commercial vehicles piled up along Malaba-Bungoma road on Saturday June 29, 2019. (Ignatius Odanga/Standard)

Lack of electronic scanners to fast track clearance of trucks, and the poor road infrastructure, are causing huge snarl-ups at the busy Malaba border post and denying the government billions of shillings in revenue.

A parliamentary committee report has also revealed that the congestion has had social consequences, with cases of single parent families, early pregnancies and spread of HIV/Aids on the rise.

And to sum it all, the slow clearance of the commercial trailers is delaying businesses and costing the government millions of shillings in revenue.

The report by the Senate's Roads and Transport Committee says the situation has been compounded by poor road infrastructure leading to and around the border and inadequate security despite the congestion.

The report by the Senator Kimani Wamatangi-led committee indicates that the stalled construction of the Sh622 million One Stop Border Point complex has worsened matters.

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While moving the Motion for the adoption of the report, Mr Wamatangi said the construction of a small loop within the border post that would cost the country less than Sh100 million was the reason the entire project failed.

Construction worth almost Sh1 billion had been done yet there was a small loop within the inside of the border post costing less than Sh100 million which was supposed to be constructed.

The project, which was initiated in 2012, stalled in 2015 for lack of money to complete it.

World Bank, which co-funded the project with the government, pulled out in 2015, leaving the project that had gobbled up Sh496 million in a limbo.

“One of the glaring points that we noted is the fact that, the road is not only narrow, but unsuitable for use by heavy commercial traffic ferrying goods to other countries from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda,” said Wamatangi.

“It is no longer business worthy for an investor or even a transporter to take their cargo from Mombasa to Uganda, Burundi or Congo. They would rather avoid Kenya and go through Tanzania to find another alternative route because this country could not invest less than Sh100 million to complete a project on which they had already invested almost Sh1 billion,” he said.

In terms of social impact, Wamatangi explained that when the trucks line up the whole of these 20km, drivers and turn boys convert the local area, the roadside and the few homesteads around there into toilets.

“If you look at the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, which we oversight, the amount that it was given from our national budget is close to Sh300 billion. How can one explain that the ministry is not able to set aside less than Sh100 million to complete that? That kind of ineptitude is what we have to call out. If need be, we have to make sure some of those people do not retain their jobs because they are not worth it.”

Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), which implemented the projects, terminated the contract due to lack of finance.

The termination, KeNHA explained, was to avoid any anticipated contractual claims from the contractor due to default by the authority to pay for the work done.

Senator Enock Wambua (Kitui), while seconding the Motion, said the government had spent Sh496 million to establish the one-stop border point in Malaba and that the balance for the completion of the project was only Sh58 million.

According to Mr Wambua, and based on the submissions of the Kenya Revenue Authority officers, in a single month with all the problems of traffic, they were collecting more than Sh250 million

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