Munyes hard pressed over UhuRuto gas project

Mwananchi Liquefied Gas Project stalled after consuming millions of shillings

In Summary

•Munyes and Leparan told the committee the ministry procured 357,355, 6kg cylinders during the 2017-18 financial year. Out of these, 200, 257 were supplied.

• CS says no public money was lost because the state did not pay for defective cylinders.

Petroleum and Mining CS John Munyes.
EXPLAINING DELAY: Petroleum and Mining CS John Munyes.
Image: FILE

Petroleum CS Peter Munyes was put on the spot on Thursday over delays in the rollout of the ambitious Mwananchi gas project three years after it was initiated.

Appearing before the Senate Energy Committee, Munyes had a hard time explaining why the programme to provide poor households with affordable cooking gas stalled despite consuming millions of shillings.

“What is the status of the Mwananchi Liquefied Gas Project? Why has it not been rolled out three years later?” committee chairman Ephraim Maina asked.

Munyes, appearing alongside National Oil Corporation (NOC) chief executive Morintat Leparan, disclosed that the project ran into trouble soon after it was initiated.

He said a court stopped the project after the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) sued the Ministry on grounds that it was distributing faulty cylinders.

“I admit from the word go that the quality of the cylinders was in question and that was why the matter ended up in court,” Munyes said.

Leparan said Cofek sued on the basis that a number of the cylinders being distributed were substandard or defective and the lobby feared they could pose risks to the public.

Munyes and Leparan told the committee the ministry procured 357,35, 6kg cylinders during the 2017-18 financial year. Out of these, 200, 257 were supplied.

NOC, which was mandated to inspect and distribute the cylinders, received 139,257 cylinders from the ministry for inspection. Only 80,839 of those inspected were allowed for circulation with 59,107 rejected for being faulty.

The disclosure drew a barrage of questions from the senators who demanded to know why the ministry spent millions of shillings of taxpayers’ money to procure defective and dangerous cylinders.

Senators Ochilo Ayacho (Migori), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Ledama Ole Kina (Narok), Mary Senata (nominated) and Johnes Mwarume (Taita Taveta) asked whether the faulty cylinders were paid for.

“The ministry procured defective cylinders and then passed them over to NOC to distribute. Were these cylinders not tested before they were supplied? Was money given to NOC to distribute the cylinders?” Ole Kina asked.

The Narok senator asked why the ministry did not allow NOC to procure firms to supply the cylinders as it is the body familiar with petroleum issues.

Kihika demanded to know whether the defective cylinders were replaced at the expense of the taxpayers or if there was a provision in the contract that required the suppliers to replace them.

“Can the CS tell us whether there was value for money in terms of the programme achieving its objective? Was there an actual money loss?” Ayacho asked.

Munyes vehemently denied the public lost money in the project adding none of the faulty cylinders was paid for.

“No defective cylinder was distributed. And I also want to go on the record that no public money was lost because we did not pay for the defective cylinders,” the CS said

Munyes and Leparan said Cofek had since withdrawn the case as the project was set to resume soon.

“Cofek later dropped the case but with a condition that we must involve a third party in testing and ascertaining the safety of the cylinders. The ministry has brought on board a third party and the exercise (testing) is starting on Monday, May 25,” Leparan said.

The Jubilee administration initiated the project to provide poor households with affordable cooking gas. The aim was to stop over-reliance on charcoal and firewood for cooking and in turn reduce respiratory diseases.

A 6kg cylinder filled with gas, complete with a grill and burner was discounted to the public at Sh2, 000.

Edited by Henry Makori