Nairobi — A Senate committee probing the Galana-Kulalu model farm project has learnt how the government spent a whooping Sh580 million to clear bushes in the expansive 10,000-acre piece of land.
The revelation has yet again brought to the fore how millions of shillings might have been swindled in President Uhuru Kenyatta's flagship project to ensure the country's food security is intact.
In the revelations laid bare before the Senate Agricultural Committee, the amount was paid even with the contractor, an Israeli company, Green Arava complaining that those charged with that responsibility did a shoddy job.
Irrigation Principal Secretary Fred Segor was hard pressed to explain why the project has stalled for almost five years now since it was launched despite the government having already paid close to a total of Sh5 billion to the contractor for facilitation.
The project was launched in September 2014 and was scheduled to be completed by March 2017.
"This project was launched with a lot of funfair yet until date we have not seen tangible results on the ground. As a committee we are concerned that huge payments have already been paid but nothing really substantial is happening on the ground," said committee Chairman Peter Ndwiga (Embu).
Segor who was representing his boss, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri who was held up in a Cabinet meeting, infuriated Senators when he failed to explain why the multi-billion shilling project was revised downwards from the initial Sh14.5 billion to Sh7 billion.
Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko on a point of order sought to find out why the government had opted to revise the terms of the contract yet the deal had already been sealed.
Segor said the change of terms was done after numerous consultative meetings were done between relevant government agencies that finally arrived at the decision to trim the budget.
"The project was revised downwards because of the high cost implications that the government thought would have been incurred when factoring in on some other project," he said.
According to Segor, the protracted battle between the ministry and the contractor had forced the former into contemplating to cancel the contract but upon seeking an advisory opinion from the Attorney General and the Treasury, the ministry was directed to proceed with the project.
Segor told Senators that the project hosted by Kilifi and Tana River Counties is 85 per cent complete, a declaration however Senators protested, noting their earlier visit to the site had revealed otherwise.
The contractor who was present during the hearings faulted the government through the National Irrigation Board (NIB) for failing to honour it's end of the bargain citing delayed payment of funds as the main reason for the project stalling.
"Since 2016 we have not been paid any single cent from the government and going forward with the necessary works at the site has proved to be difficult," he said.
Besides the payments for the works done, the contractor through it's legal officer Ken Mwangi also said the payments for shipping machinery in the country for the project were yet to be paid.
According to Segor however, money owed to the contractor amounts to Sh8 million, a figure that Mwangi objected to, noting that the government was insincere about honouring its deal.