Murkomen rules out 'Uhuru-style' mega road projects in Ruto's first term

Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen speaks to Spice FM on Wednesday July 10, 2024. [Spice FM]

Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen has watered down any possibility of new mega road infrastructure projects within the remainder of President William Ruto’s first term in office.

On the contrary, the government will spend more on payment of debts owed to contractors, complete ongoing and pending projects, and maintain the existing roads.

 “The wisest thing to do now is pausing commissioning of new projects. We cannot do any new roads for the next three to four years,” said Murkomen on Spice FM on Wednesday, July 10.

This development stands in stark contrast to the previous Jubilee government, of ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta and his then Deputy, William Ruto, which launched the most capital intensive infrastructure projects including the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway and the Nairobi Expressway.

“We dropped the ball within the last decade. Had we moved progressively Kenyans would have understood, but once we moved rapidly they believed that we had the resources for the constructions,” he said.

Some of the projects, he says, were ill-conceived and only meant to shore up political support and to respond to the public’s appetite for good roads.

According to Murkomen, there are numerous stalled road construction projects countrywide with accumulated pending bills of Sh165 billion, as of the 2023/24 Financial Year, against a budget of Sh51 billion which was never disbursed in full due to budget constraints.

The Transport Ministry had hoped to raise Sh100 billion from the Finance Bill 2024 for its roads department, but the plan is now in limbo following the rejection of the government’s tax hikes plan that led to the deadly June protests.

“The president is on top of this subject,” declared the CS.

Contracts awarded by the ministry cumulatively amount to Sh700 billion that CS Murkomen says cannot be canceled due to massive financial penalties that the government may incur from litigations.

Show of opulence

Meanwhile, Murkomen has promised to tone down on his infamous display of opulence that has earned him a legion of critics in recent days, saying that this will allow Kenyans to interrogate his work more, and not his lifestyle.

“A shoe, or a watch, is not necessarily one of the most expensive things I have,” said Murkomen, “I don’t think I’m even ranking among the first seven cabinet members who have expensive watches. I’d be in the top 100 if my shoes were ranked with those of the current MPs.”