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Puzzle of grand but poorly executed State projects

traffic jam
In Nairobi, the need for an efficient public transport system has been on the card for decades. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Several multi-billion-shilling government projects have slammed into costly headwinds putting into question their planning and feasibility before roll out.

The setbacks that rock initiatives midway may spell doom for Kenya’s attractiveness to investors.

Just when Kenya was ready to take relief from the Sh70 billion Lake Tukana Wind Power Project in 2018, transmission hurdles saw the project delayed and the country slapped with a Sh1 billion penalty before it was turned on later in the year.

It added 310 megawatts (MW) to the national grid but Kenyans are yet to feel its impact on reduced electricity bills despite promises that cheaper energy sources would yield lower energy charges.

The government blamed the delay on land compensation disputes, funding hitch and change of contractors.

The project financed by various lenders, with the Africa Development Bank playing the lead, was due for commissioning last December but was delayed by Kenya's slow speed in construction of a power line to evacuate electricity from Marsabit to Suswa.

A similar Sh19 billion electricity transmission line is putting pressure on the country to import power from Uganda and Tanzania despite the country’s generation being more than 1,000MW above the peak demands of 1,802MW.

How power generation projects went on at OlKaria without any plan to carry it to regions that need it in Western and parts of Rift Valley may present a piece to the costly puzzle of how projects are conceptualised.

A similar missing link has also been a drag on the popularity of the Standard Gauge Railway passenger train between Mombasa and Nairobi. The line, which is no doubt President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pet project and the costliest since independence, was commissioned on May 30, 2017 but still lacks a seamless road network connecting Mombasa to Miritini and Nairobi to Syokimau termini.

Kenya Railways is still planning a feasibility study for construction of a high-speed commuter rail service that will take 12 months to build once approved and funded. This will link Kenya’s globally popular cities of Nairobi and Mombasa.

There have been plans to have private sector step in to tame the delays in projects completion as the government struggles to use resources in various projects which drag them just like the Olkaria-Kisumu power line.

“We are considering to interest the private sector to invest in the capital-intensive power line construction to ease the burden on the government. This will also speed up completion and enhance gains made from such ventures,” Energy CS Charles Keter said.

In Nairobi, the need for an efficient public transport system has been on the card for decades. City fathers and the national government have not agreed on the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) model to be applied, making the city the second worst congested capital in the world after India’s Calcutta.

Non-State agency Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) that helped Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg with their BRT models has vouched for establishment of exclusive public transport lanes for Nairobi.

While, President Uhuru had last year’s Jamhuri Day issued a deadline for the BRT service, its implementation is nowhere in sight. There is, however, a taskforce looking into formulation of standards for the BRT bus body specifications ahead of its introduction.

Plans to adopt smart technologies to manage vehicular traffic are yet to be adopted while those to introduce a smart fares payment system flopped despite much hyped governmental support that sought to introduce a cashless system.

Another Sh3 billion plan to distribute low cost cooking gas cylinders to poor households was bungled by pathetic execution strategy and haphazard implementation.

The plan, critical to promoting clean fuel adoption in the country, was hijacked by a cartel of illegal LPG traders who took advantage of gaping loopholes in the project bringing it to a halt and sending the government back to the drawing board.

Petroleum principal secretary had earlier told Nation that rogue traders took advantage of the subsidised cylinder plan which was meant to be solely distributed by National Oil to make a kill from the government subsidy.

“Unscrupulous traders took advantage of the cheap cylinders and bought them at the Sh2,000 and sold them at Sh4,000. We also had financial constraints given that we got the Sh1.5 billion but in the supplementary budget, we got nothing. It will now be upon the National Oil to source for funds and promote the LPG plan just like other private players are doing it.”

In another waste of funds due to poor planning, multi-billion-shilling medical equipment bought to ease Kenyans’ pain and financial burden for cancer and kidney ailments continue to lie idle at public hospitals for lack of qualified personnel to operate them.

Kenyans anticipate a better 2019 where projects’ implementation will be handled from start to end ensuring taxpayers get value for their money.

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