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Stalled irrigation projects condemn Kenyans to hunger

Martin Mwita @MwitaMartin

Irrigation projects spread across the country are the most affected among government stalled undertakings, posing a threat to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambitious Big Four agenda on food security.

While the State remains keen to expand the country’s irrigation plans, since 2013, the current situation is posing a threat to the realisation of these projects.

In an update on the “Stalled Capital Projects” to the National Assembly by Treasury, 193 projects under the State Department for Irrigation have remained stagnant, forming the bulk of the 545, Sh365.9 billion stalled government projects.

The majority of these were initiated between 2011 and 2012 with a completion target date of 2022 when President Kenyatta’s Big Four is expected to have been fully realised.

Uhuru’s administration had planned to fully fund the 193 irrigation projects in a Sh5.5 billion budget. However, more than 150 projects are below 50 per cent complete with only 10 passing the mark.

The highest completion rates have been recorded at Kiambundu in Embu which is 72 per cent finished and Masuno(Bungoma) at 70 per cent. Seven projects are at 50 per cent, with the majority falling between two per cent and 40 per cent. One project (Muthuru-Nyandarua) is yet to kick off despite an allocation of Sh11 million.

Treasury issued a circular (Treasury circular No. 9/2018) on August 31, last year and letter Ref.No ES,030 ‘A’ (84) dated November 15, last year, requiring all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to provide details of stalled capital projects for submission to the National Assembly.

Findings tabled before Parliament last week by Leader of Majority Aden Duale show that Kakamega and Kwale Counties have the highest numbers (10 each) of stalled irrigation projects.

They are followed by Bungoma, Busia and Siaya which each have nine stalled projects. According to Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich, majority of these projects failed to progress as the State Department for Irrigation has not received funds since the onset of devolution.

“The Department was not allocated funds for completion of the projects after the advent of devolution,” Treasury says in its report to Parliament.

Highest allocations

Of the 193 irrigation projects, Kimorigo in Taita Taveta had the highest allocation of Sh130 million. It commenced in 2011 and is 19 per cent complete with Sh25 million already spent. It is expected to be complete by 2022.

Kapsimbir in Bomet and Barwesa(Baringo) are the second highly funded with budgets of Sh93 million each with a five per cent and 25 per cent completion rate respectively.

About Sh23 million had been spent on Barwesa as of June last year, while Kapsimbir has so far consumed Sh3 million. The two are set for completion in 2022.

“In view of the foregoing and in light of the prevailing constrained fiscal space in the medium-term, MDAs are expected to rationalise and prioritise viable stalled projects for implementation in a phased out manner within the budget ceilings provided from time to time,” Treasury said in the document before Parliament.

Stalling of the projects now raises questions over the country’s ability to expand irrigation-based crop production, a much needed element in supporting the Big Four food security arm.

Big Four

Treasury has allocated Sh59.1 billion to agriculture, rural and urban development in the proposed budget for the 2019-20 financial year commencing July 1, as the government expects to reduce spending on new mega infrastructure projects with focus now shifting to the Big Four agenda.

Agriculture will take a sizable portion of the Sh2.7 trillion budget (Budget Policy Statement) unveiled by Rotich last week, which has a 7.8 per cent increase on spending compared to the Sh2.51 trillion he had proposed in the current fiscal year.

Last year, Uhuru ordered a freeze on new projects until existing ones are complete, a move aimed at adressing wastage of public funds on elephant projects.

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