Kenya has allocated about $247.2 million more for the ongoing construction of dams to support farming and electricity generation in the country. This is part of the government’s plan to reduce its over-reliance on rainfall, which has been erratic this year.

As explained by the East African, Kenya is faced with reduced food production, fewer earnings from farming and a rise in electricity costs due to delays in rainfall at the beginning of the planting season which spans from March through May. The country’s share of cheaper hydropower has dropped as well, leading to an increasing reliance on expensive diesel generators.

Consequently, the building of dams accounts for more than a third of the total amount ($715 million) earmarked for projects in the broader sector of agriculture and food security, water, and irrigation, according to Kenya’s expenditure plan for the fiscal year 2019-20.

Kenya’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Rotich reiterated in the 2019 Budget Policy Statement presented to the National Assembly in February that the government will increase land under irrigation to reduce “over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture.”

Under the Jubilee government, investment in dam construction is believed to be the latest “cash cow” for tenderpreneurs as the government plans to build 57 dams countrywide, many for hydropower generation. As at February, Daily Nation reported that deals worth about $7 billion had been entered into or are awaiting signing to construct the water facilities.

The latest allocation of funds to the construction of dams comes amid questions over previous use of money for the projects. The lingering accountability queries have caught the attention of both the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and lawmakers, who maintained that due diligence is done on their viability and landowners compensated before the government can continue with the projects.

“All the programs stand suspended until the people are compensated. The government needs to be serious and do first things first… that is, acquiring land and compensating the owners,” Committee Chairman Kareke Mbiuki said when the National Assembly Committee on Environment and Natural Resources stopped the building of 24 dams in March.

Reports have also revealed that procurement processes and construction of most of the dams are being carried out under the Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPCF) scheme – a system considered to be prone to abuse where the contractor is not only responsible to engineer, procure and construct the project, but also has to finance it.

The projects first received criticisms in February after the DCI launched an investigation into the payment of $207.68 million to an insolvent Italian company, CMC di Ravena, for construction of Arror and Kimwarer dams in the country.

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