Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui has blamed the stalling of the Sh2 billion Kirandich dam in Baringo on an inefficient contractor, whom he said the government could not sack because of a conditional grant clause in the contract.
According to the CS, the biggest challenge is that the contractor was identified by the Italian government, which is also the financier of the project and the government could not get a different company because the funding is a conditional grant.
He said the finance agreement between the two governments was not favourable and called for a review and a fresh advertisement after the contract expired.
"It was not possible to get another contractor then because the project was a conditional grant from Italy, and the contract awarded to the contractor by the financier expired. We were reduced to regular pleading and making follow-up on when it would start," said Mr Chelugui.
"When I was in the Ministry of Water, we sat with the Italian corporation in 2018 after the expiry of the contract and they advised us to make a fresh application of a first extension of the contract, which we did. Eight months later, they replied, indicating that the same contractor will continue with the project," he added.
The contractor came back, did some leveling on the site where the sewage and waste management system was supposed to be constructed and left.
The multi-billion-shilling project, which involved extension of water supply to Kabartonjo, Kiboino, Kapkut, Kituro, Kabasis and Kaptorokwo, was expected to ease perennial water shortage in Baringo Central and Baringo North sub-counties.
The design also included the construction of a sewage and waste management system in Kabarnet town at a cost of Sh700 million.
"The problem with this project is the contracting ... Even if we renew and extend it, it is not going to change the situation. It can only be done through serious bilateral engagement with the Italian government to get a new contractor who will handle the project," said the CS.
He said the Sh2 billion conditional grant by the Italian government will expire on June 2023 and urgent intervention ought to be done to speed up the project.
According to Mr Chelugui, Phase Two of the project was going to be a game changer for the county, because it was expected to introduce a power plant, which would pump water to the main tank, reducing the perennial accumulated power bills.
The cost of pumping water from the dam to the main tank in Kabarnet is high because it requires a lot of power, leading the devolved unit to spend more than Sh4 million every month, on an income of Sh2 million.
"They are going at a loss of Sh2 million every month through payment of power bills. The solution by the government was to erect a power plant that would generate its own energy to pump water from the dam to the main tank for distribution, so as to end the perennial water shortage occasioned by disconnection of power over unsettled bills," said Mr Chelugui.
The second phase of the project is also expected to distribute water to 65,000 people as compared to the current 12,000.
Kabarnet, a colonial town, is the county's headquarters, but does not have a sewer line and has been relying on open lagoons, posing a health hazard to the population.
"We are calling on the national government to fast-track the construction of the sewerage and waste management system as this will help boost sanitation in the town," said the governor, Mr Stanley Kiptis, a week ago.
"The government is doing a disservice by giving us empty promises over the years. How can you explain a situation where a town, which is the county headquarters, has no sewer line since the colonial times? As we speak, locals are at risk of contracting diseases owing to the raw sewage flowing all over," said Kabarnet ward representative Ernest Kibet.
"This project has turned out to be a white elephant... We have scanty information on why it stalled but we are told the issue is surrounding the contractor who was not paid," he added.
On a tour to Baringo in 2018, the Deputy President William Ruto dished out goodies, among them the second phase of the Kirandich dam that had stalled for years. He said it would soon be complete, with a sewerage within the town.
A spot check by the Nation revealed that the project, which started in 2019, has stopped after the contractor leveled close to 10 acres and left the site.
On a development tour to Chemususu and Kirandich dams in Eldama Ravine and Kabarnet towns in February this year, Water PS Joseph Irungu said the completion of the projects had been delayed by the outbreak of Covid-19 and would be completed in June.