Govt releases road funds ahead of Uhuru Ukambani tour

The government has finally provided its share of funds for the Kibwezi/Kitui road, ahead of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tour of Ukambani region.

The Sh452 million, which was remitted to the contractor as the last batch of advance payment by the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) last week, paves way for the speedy implementation of the 192km road project.

It was set aside in this year’s budget.

According to Kenha director general Peter Mundinia, the government has provided its full share of the Sh840 million payable to the contractor, which had delayed funding by Chinese financiers.

KENHA CHALLENGES
Eng Mundinia confirmed the payment to Chinese contractor Sinohydro in a status report seen by the Nation, which acknowledged difficulties in starting the project.

The Kenha status report dated June 12 cited several challenges contributing to delayed implementation of the project, including government’s delay to remit the advance payment to the contractor.

“The Export Import (Exim) Bank insisted on the full payment of the government portion upfront as a pre-condition to release their component of the loan,” the report reads.

LOAN INSURANCE
By last week, only Sh388 million had been remitted.

There were concerns over the delays and slow implementation of the Sh18.4 billion project, which was launched by President Kenyatta on December 6 last year, because the contractor was expected to have begun the works by March 1 after mobilising equipment and staff.

The report also acknowledged that Treasury is yet to pay for the Exim Bank loan insurance to an officially designated insurance institution in China – another mandatory requirement for the disbursement of the Chinese loan.

CAMPAIGN PLEDGE
The road, the only Class B (links nationally important centres, principal towns or urban centres) in the country without tarmac and part of the Northern corridor, was Jubilee’s number one pledge during the 2013 presidential campaigns and is crucial in unlocking the region’s economic potential.

“The contractor is also encountering repeated problems and hindrances in his efforts to commence and proceed with works at Mutomo due to frequent clamping of his construction equipment and vehicles by Kitui Government personnel,” the report says.

It adds: “The efforts of the Regional Commissioner and Kenha to have the contractor allowed to work freely and deliver visible progress have been unsuccessful.

MPs TEAR-GASSED
The contractor has mobilised substantial numbers of equipment and has identified and secured several sources of construction materials including hard stones and conducted blasting on one site.

Last year, 10 Ukambani MPs were beaten up and tear-gassed by police in Kibwezi town as they led protests against the government’s failure to begin construction works.

The leaders took to streets claiming that the government had diverted funds meant for the project to politically well-connected regions in a scheme to marginalise the Kamba community.

PROTESTS
Kitui Senator David Musila and Wiper party MPs Charles Nyamai (Kitui Rural), Mr Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), Mr Mutua Muluvi (Kitui East), Ms Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi east), Mr Bernard Kitungi (Mwingi West), Ms Rose Museo (Makueni Woman rep) and Peter Mathuki (a member of EALA) vowed to lead more protests.

“The national cake is not meant only for the regions that voted for the government in power. It should be shared equitably across the country because all Kenyans are equal taxpayers,” Mr Nyamai said.

DISCRIMINATION
They accused the government of derailing the project to punish the Kamba community for political reasons, saying locals continue to suffer economic neglect under the Jubilee administration.

“It is clear there’s no commitment and political will on the part of the government to tarmac Kitui/Kibwezi road. This open discrimination must stop because the Kambas are taxpayers like other Kenyans,” Mr Nyamai said.

Senator Musila said locals continue to suffer due to neglect since independence, as successive governments often broke their promises to tarmac the road.

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