MPs follow budget proceedings in the National Assembly on Thursday. They have reinstated a Sh2.7 billion budgetary allocation to the project struck off last year. [Photo: Borniface Okendo, Standard]
Financial considerations are likely to override legislators’ objection to China’s push to execute the lucrative mineral mapping project in Kenya.
This follows the announcement by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich of an anticipated project loan from the giant Asian economy.
MPs have been canvassing for an unnamed local geologist to execute the contract, which involves remote sensing from an aircraft.
The aerial survey is expected to compile a new geological map detailing the occurrence of minerals around the country.
China’s experience with Kenya is typically project loans such as the Sh327 billion Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), rather than cash awards.
“We expect a further Sh6 billion support from China for geo-mapping once discussions are concluded,” said Mr Rotich in his budget statement on Thursday.
He had also announced the allocation of another Sh200 million towards the project, possibly to supplement funding from the Chinese.
Controversy has stalked the highly-lucrative mineral mapping project, seeing it postponed several times before, owing to competing interests.
Initial estimates for the project put the cost at about Sh3 billion, with the Government allocating the amount in last year’s budget — before the money was reallocated for other uses in a subsequent supplementary budget.
No explanations were given for the reallocation. The anticipated funding from China means the Kenyan contractor will almost certainly be locked out as earlier negotiations had even settled on the institution that would do the job.
Drama around the award of the contract has played out for months. Soon after the budgetary allocation for the project, Treasury cut the budget for the survey by Sh2.6 billion and opted to finance the geological survey devoid of exchequer funds.
A supplementary budget tabled in December 2016 slashed the allocation to Sh702 million, which would be used to equip the African Mineral Development Centre.
However, in a review of the supplementary budget presented by the CS, MPs have reinstated the Sh2.7 billion provision for the digital survey.
“The nationwide geophysical survey should be reinstated. Further, the project should be done by Kenyan geologists,” the Mutava Musyimi-led committee on Budget and Appropriation said.