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MPs demand answers on idle Sh76m water hyacinth machine.

figure By DAVID MWERE The Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP) is on the spot over suspected irregularities in the procurement of a Sh76 million dredging machine meant to remove the invasive water hyacinth weed from the lake. class="MsoNormalEnvironment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko and LVEMP manager Fransisca Owuor on Wednesday faced members of the Regional Integration Committee of the National Assembly to explain why the machine acquired in 2016 has remained idle.

class="MsoNormalLVEMP has been funded by the World Bank but has been unable to deal with the intrusive weed about 21 years since it was established. class="MsoNormalThe MPs also raised concerns that the project has received over S billion from the World Bank to cater for tree planting and other initiatives, but that the impact is yet to be felt by the local community.

class="MsoNormalWRONG SPECIFICATIONS class="MsoNormalIt emerged that LVEMP procured the dredging machine well aware that it did not have the right specifications to deal with the weed that has made transportation of goods and fishing expeditions difficult. class="MsoNormalVictoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world, covers the three East African Countries - Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

class="MsoNormalThe failures at LVEMP forced the government to acquire another dredging vessel owned by Ugandan firm, Mango Tree Group, which was unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila early in 2019l. class="MsoNormalThe machine that is now under use is 70 metres long and weighs about 4,000 tonnes.

class="MsoNormalThough the supplier is demanding more to fix the unused dredger, the World Bank has given the implementing agency until April 30 to resolve the stand-off with the ministry and suspended all projects in the lake basin region for stock-taking on the return on investments. class="MsoNormalMACHINE REPAIRS class="MsoNormalIt also emerged that payments of up to 90 percent of the total cost were made to UK-based Unit Export Limited, which supplied the machine even before it certified fit for use.

class="MsoNormalThis was despite an inspection and acceptance committee voicing concerns that the machine failed to meet the specifications of the bid. class="MsoNormalAccording to Mr Tobiko, the supplier acknowledged the existence of flaws but made an about-turn after being asked to take remedial measures for the machine to be put to use.

We have put the matter before the Attorney-General's office with a view to getting an advisory opinion on the proposal that we raise Sh1 million to repair the machine," Mr Tobiko told the committee. class="MsoNormalKabondo Kasipul MP Eve Obara claimed some parts of the machine were fabricated and assembled locally and yet touted as having been made in Italy.

class="MsoNormalThe machine has not been accepted and MPs raised fears that taxpayers may lose the Sh76 million already paid to the supplier. class="MsoNormalCOSTLY RESOLUTION class="MsoNormalThe removal of water hyacinth is part of efforts to transform lake-related activities, which include construction of a new port as well as rehabilitation of related infrastructure.

class="MsoNormalAlthough the dispute can only be resolved by the international arbitration tribunal, Mr Tobiko says it would be costly to handle it at such a level. class="MsoNormalThe CS said he initiated an internal inquiry to ascertain how the lapses occurred and look into other expenses.

We are trying to get an answer, within the law, together with the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA). We are eager to resolve this matter as it has taken too long," he said.

class="MsoNormalMPs are also seeking answers on the Sh14 million tree planting project in Kericho, a similar one in Kisumu that cost Sh24 million, the Sh9 million spent on toilets in Kericho. These are some of the projects that the LVEMP has executed since 2009. Related Stories
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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Mar 27, 2019
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