Lreb projects stall due to lack of funds

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (third left), flanked by county leaders, addresses the press after a summit of Lake Region Economic Bloc in Kakamega in 2018. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) is facing a cash crisis due to limited funding by member counties.

Consequently, projects lined up to be jointly undertaken by the 14-member bloc are either in limbo or have been suspended.

The bloc’s members include Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, Bomet, Kericho, Nandi, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia and Kakamega counties.

A source said some of the member counties have reportedly withdrawn funding LREB’s activities until legislation is passed to formalise the bloc’s transactions.

The secretariat now wants member counties to support it as they await legal edicts to formalise the bloc’s operations. LREB CEO Abala Wanga said the secretariat was doing all it could with limited resources, even as some of the skeleton staff seconded to the bloc by the counties decried limited funds.

‘’We are optimistic that the government would enact laws soon to legitimise the blocs’ operations,” said Wanga.

Some of the LREB staff have been working on voluntary basis for months due to lack of funds. Some have reportedly left. Although some counties have since contributed the seed capital to operationalise LREB activities, others are still waiting to do so when the law formalising the bloc is put in place.

Fast-track legislation

Last year, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa told the bloc’s chair Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also the Kakamega governor, that they were fast-tracking the legislation governing regional blocs.

Wamalwa reassured the governor that once LREB is formally legalised, it would be easier for member counties to know parameters of engagement.

Already, the Lake Region Economic Bloc Act which creates the economic zone has been drafted and given to the Attorney General’s Office.

The Ministry of Devolution is pursuing a national policy on regional bloc, acting in accordance with Article 32 of the Act, which creates the bloc.

The Act stipulates that “an agreement shall become binding and effective when ratified through the enactment by at least a third of the bloc’s assemblies.’’

Delays to pass the Bill by some counties, Abala said, were caused by the different timelines the various assemblies had in processing the proposed law.

Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya (center), Lake region Economic block CEO Abala Wanga (left) and former KCB CEO Martin Oduor during a press briefing in Kisumu on April 20, 2018. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Assemblies that have passed the Bill so far are for Kisumu, Nyamira, Kakamega, Kisii, Siaya, Busia and Migori.