President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambitious plan to fix Kenya’s food insecurity hangs in the balance after the stalling of the construction of a Sh7.2 billion Galana Kulalu model farm.
Kenya has already paid Sh5.9 billion Green Arava, the Israeli company that was contracted to build the farm. This is an 80 per cent of the total sum allocated to the project.
Green Arava stopped operations at the projects since August last year.
Communications between Green Arava, the National Irrigation Board (NIB), the implementing agency for the project, and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation reveal the sad truth that the project is in its death bed.
In the communications, Green Arava points an accusing finger to NIB for failing to honour requests for payments before threatening to stop any further work until all its payments demands are met.
NIB on the other hand accuses Green Arava of going against orders, failing to respond to numerous letters, demobilising from the construction site contrary to contractual obligations, and embarking on a go-slow.
Charles Muasya, the head of design and planning of irrigation projects at the National Irrigation Board said there is no turning back.
“We have reached a point of no return. We cannot continue with more payments for work whose progress we are not pleased with. We have written to the National Treasury so that they can advise on a way forward” said Muasya
Initially, the project was to run for 30 months, with March 9, 2017 being the deadline but Green Arava requested an extension of the contract to January 2018, but again failed to deliver.
In September last year, the firm asked for another extension to finalise by April 2019. However, the firm has not placed any construction machinery.
“The contractor claims that we have refused to pay him. But out of the Sh7.2 billion contract, we have already given out Sh5.9 billion. The balance in the contract is Sh1.2 billion whereas the value of pending works not done is Sh989 million. We needed the contractor to make progress in the works done but he has refused. Basically, he doesn’t deserve to get paid, “Mr Muasya said.
These issues are coming up at a time when the project should be making Sh1.2 billion in maize sales per season, per projections. The project has only managed to produce 119,000, 90kg bags of maize, worth about Sh273.7 million.
“The contractor wants to be paid for equipment that is still in Israel. We even asked for a bill of landing to show that he has already shipped the equipment but he has failed to provide one. We don’t know if he has purchased the equipment or even made arrangements for shipment,” Mr Muasya said.