FOOD INSECURITY

How state officers sabotaged Galana Kulalu project

A Senate committee session revealed how officials orchestrated the collapse of the 10,000 – acre model farm

In Summary

• The Senate Agriculture Committee says from the beginning decisions were made to sabotage President's flagship project, which is 85 per cent complete

•  The government has so far spent Sh6.1 billion on the Galana Kulalu irrigation project.

A section of 4,500 acres of tilled for maize plantation at the Galana Kulalu food security project in Malindi on November 29, 2016.
WHITE ELEPHANT? A section of 4,500 acres of tilled for maize plantation at the Galana Kulalu food security project in Malindi on November 29, 2016.
Image: ALLOYS MUSYOKA

The failure of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s food security flagship project suggests political warfare if findings of a Senate committee on Galana Kulalu are anything to go by.

A Senate committee session on Tuesday revealed how state officers orchestrated the collapse of the 10,000-acre model farm.

The scheme, allegedly to undermine the President, started when key components that would have made the venture sustainable were dropped.

 
 
 

A milling plant, a school, police station and other facilities were removed when the contract sum was revised downward from Sh14.5 billion to Sh7.2 billion.

At the same time, the project was delayed by 357 days as the contractor — Green Arava of Israel complained that the contract that was to run for 30 calendar months was reviewed midway.

Also dropped was an exchange programme that was to train 300 graduates in Israel.  Local leaders said of the  300 taken, none was from the host counties of Kilifi and Tana River.

The Senate Agriculture Committee chaired by Embu Senator Njeru Ndwiga says the decisions were from the beginning a deliberate attempt to sabotage the project, which is 85 per cent complete.

 “We see that the NIB is in a hurry to abandon the project, something we cannot allow because of the colossal amounts of money sunk in it,” Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko said.

The government has so far spent Sh6.1 billion on the Galana Kulalu irrigation project. The contractor is demanding Sh350 million for works done and certified – which the Agriculture ministry has refused to pay.

The bone of contention revolves around material that was to complete the remaining 15 per cent of the work. The contractor is seeking payment before the equipment — said to be lying idle in Italy and Israel — is delivered. The ministry says it will not pay until it sees a bill of lading.

 
 
 

Irrigation PS Fred Segor said the contractor is owed only Sh8 million. These developments characterise a frosty relationship that even threatens Kenya’s ties with Israel.

Further, the government intends to invoke a clause in the contract that requires Green Arava to pay Sh10,000 per day for the period the works have been delayed.

“Our current frustration is part of the political plot to kill this project. It was done slowly in a different element,” Green Arava chairman Yariv Kedar told Senators on Tuesday.

“The PS seems to ignore the fact that the number of days the contractor has been seeking payment is more than a year,” Green Arava legal boss Ken Kamau said.

It took the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta for the contract to be signed. There is no benefit we can attach to the project and others by the NIB in Bura, Hola, and Galana apart from poverty.
Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana

The contract says that Green Arava should be paid after presenting an invoice and proof documents showing the readiness of shipment.

“It falls squarely on the ministry to explain why it has not met its end of the bargain to make the contractor’s work easy,” Ndwiga said.

The firm further claimed that the project, at inception, was rushed "for photography" because of an uproar over delays in implementation.

“The contractor was given instructions to commence farming even before the 18 months for construction was over. Centre pivot irrigation systems were done in a rush,” Kamau said.

Bush clearing, which gobbled up Sh580 million, further delayed works for over a year, even as works on access roads and bridges remain unfinished.

Green Arava said attempts to persuade the ministry to implement the project at a reduced scale without destroying its intended objective were ignored.

“The essence was to prove the concept. We proposed cost-cutting to fit the other components but no one cared to listen. Our place at the negotiation table was limited,” the lawyer said.

As the blame game ensues, five meetings to resolve the matter ended without a way forward, which the Attorney General has warned against its termination.

Among the questions the Senate committee asked is why the ministry has not undertaken to verify that the equipment in question exists.

Ayacko asked, “How does the ministry expect the works to be completed when the material is not on site?”.

Senator Naomi Shonga posed, “Why is the ministry frustrating the contractor they picked?”

Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana said the government officials implementing the project have not shown goodwill since the onset

A multi-agency team is now making a sixth attempt to resolve the row pitting the contractor against the government.

Segor said the preliminary plan is to have Agricultural Development Corporation get into a public-private partnership deal with another entity to complete the works.

Furthermore, the project is reeling under challenges of power supply as the area is not served by the main electricity grid and relies on diesel-powered generators.

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