Industry

Shortage of staff, funds hurt Nema operations

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National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Board Chairman John Konchellah addresses the press in Mombasa on October 8, 2021. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

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Summary

  • Principal Secretary for Environment and Forestry Chris Kiptoo said the environmental management regulator has a staff count of less than 450 against a requirement of 1,500 workers because of underfunding.
  • Nema is largely funded by taxpayers after the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) licence processing fee for real estate developers at the rate of 0.1 percent of project value was scrapped more than four years ago.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) is battling understaffing and cash shortage following the removal of construction levies, weakening its operation in enforcing compliance with conservation laws and policies.

Principal Secretary for Environment and Forestry Chris Kiptoo said the environmental management regulator has a staff count of less than 450 against a requirement of 1,500 workers because of underfunding.

Nema is largely funded by taxpayers after the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) licence processing fee for real estate developers at the rate of 0.1 percent of project value was scrapped more than four years ago.

The Treasury in 2016 scrapped the levies charged by Nema and the National Construction Authority (NCA) in a plan expected to ease the burden of investors seeking to venture into real estate and fast-track procedures to start such businesses

“Nema is weak in its regulatory function because despite having the powers, out of your (private sector) lobbying for ease of doing business, you took away the EIA fees that it used to charge. So the ‘polluter pays’ principle is now never applied,” Dr Kiptoo told a business leaders forum in Nairobi on climate action.

“If we give you an EIA licence, there are conditions to that licence and we need to monitor (compliance) all the time and there are so many of them. We need to see a strong regulator.”

The fee for processing environmental audits was abolished in January 2017 to ease the burden of investors seeking to venture into real estate and fast-track procedures to start such businesses.

Contractors used to pay between Sh10,000 and Sh40 million depending on the value and risk levels of projects.

Dr Kiptoo said the Environment and Forestry ministry was at tail-end of ongoing “comprehensive review” of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act aimed at giving Nema more teeth to mitigate environmental degradation and pollution.

The proposed legal changes include reinstatement of the EIA licence processing fee which has been endorsed by the powerful National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee (NDICCC), chaired by Interior secretary Fred Matiang’i.

“Fortunately, this (reintroduction of the levy) has been looked at and I think this is coming back. I plead with you private sector to support a strong regulator because …it is good for you,” Dr Kiptoo said.

“Mwananchi (citizen or taxpayer) is paying for our conservation effort when we should be respecting the ‘polluter-pays’ principle.”

Nema had in September 2013 removed a flat rate charge for processing EIA permits and introduced a minimum assessment fee of Sh10,000 or 0.1 percent of project cost, without an upper limit.

That regulation had removed the maximum limit of Sh1 million that existed previously, making it punitive for large-scale real estate developers.

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