MPs want Sh3.2bn for KWS bailout


Tourists at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Parliament wants the Treasury to set aside Sh3.2 billion to cover salaries and operations of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) staff following decline in revenue collection from park fees on account of coronavirus.

The Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) has reallocated the budget for the State Department for Wildlife to also operationalise the Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund.

“The committee recommends an increase of Sh3.2 billion to cater for shortfall occasioned by Covid-19 related revenue shocks and operationalisation of the Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund,” BAC chairman Kanini Kega said in a report on the 2021 Budget Policy Statement.

The State Department for Wildlife had in the current financial year warned that KWS would collect about 20 percent of the projected Sh4.62 billion annual revenue from park fees due to reduced tourism activities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The department told BAC that KWS would raise only Sh920 million of the targeted revenue in the year to June 2021.

“The State Department for Wildlife has a projection of appropriations in aid of Sh4.62 billion expected to be achieved through park fees by the KWS.

“However, this may not be feasible due to reduced tourism activities in the country,” BAC, said in a report on the 2020/21 budget estimates.

“This shortfall will adversely affect KWS operations, as these monies are expected to be used for personnel emoluments, operations and maintenance activities as well as human-wildlife compensation,” the committee, then chaired by Kimani Ichung’wah said.

KWS is facing a huge wildlife injuries compensation bill of more than Sh5 billion that has remained unpaid since 2013/14 financial year.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013, enhanced compensation claims for wildlife injuries and deaths.

Section 25 of the Act stipulates that Sh5 million will be paid for human death, Sh3 million for injury with permanent disability and up to Sh2 million for other injuries, depending on degree of severity.

The law also demands that loss or damage to crops, livestock and other property compensation be valued at market rates, but not in cases where owners did not take measures to protect their wealth.

KWS last year increased park entry fees for Kenyans while foreigners continued paying same fees.

Tourism secretary Najib Balala issued a special gazette notice that increased park charges for Nakuru and Amboseli by 50 percent from Sh1,000 to Sh1,500 while entry fees to Nairobi Park were raised 300 percent from Sh500 to Sh1,500 during peak seasons.

During off peak season, a visit to Nakuru, Amboseli and Nairobi cost Kenyans Sh800.

Meru Park, Aberdare, Mt Kenya, Tsavo charges jumped nearly threefold from Sh350 to Sh1,000 during peak season and Sh400 the rest of the time.

The new rates were expected to lift the revenues of KWS, the game parks custodian, and reduce its reliance on the Treasury whose support account for about a third of its income.

Foreign nationals were allowed to continue paying $70 (Sh7,412) in Nakuru and $60 (Sh6,365) in Meru Park, Aberdare, Mt Kenya, and Tsavo.

Fees for Nairobi has slightly increased from $50 (Sh5,304) to $70.