By Moses Odhiambo
MPs yesterday raised fears that the taxpayers may have lost money in the construction of the Kenya-Somalia border wall to ward off al Shabaab attacks.
Their fears followed disclosure that Sh3.3 billion has been spent on the building of only 10 kilometres. The border is 700 kilometres long.
The lawmakers have invited the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), and office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to probe the matter.
Leader of Majority Aden Duale said that “state offices cannot use insecurity or the threat by al Shabaab to steal and plunder monies allocated to the project.”
The Garissa Township MP said the wall should have by now passed Liboi, Fafi, Ijara and extended to Boni forest.
“The whole concept of the project was to eat money. People running it know that just because of insecurity EACC cannot go there,” he said.
He further questioned why the office of the Auditor General has not filed any report on the wall three financial years down the line.
“The committee chair must recommend that there is no value for money. The EACC, DPP, DCI must move with speed and bring the culprits who built the wire mesh,” Duale said.
They want the investigation conducted with a view to prosecute those suspected to be using the project as a cash cow.
The debate came up after members of the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee subjected a status report on the security project for further review by members.
Members hard that the works have stalled and equipment that was being used by the National Youth Service left idle in Mandera.
The border fence was birthed on January 30, 2015, following the approval by the National Security Advisory Committee. Later, the Executive visited the US-Mexico; Israel- Syria; India- Pakistan borders for lessons.
The Kenya-Somalia border extends from Mandera to Lamu with official crossing points at Mandera, Elwak, Liboi and Ishakani.
There are hundreds of uncontrolled access points used by al Shabaab operatives, undocumented migrants and traders. The government loses Sh2 billion in uncollected revenue annually.
Much as members said the idea is noble and should be supported, they held that the project must not be used as a ground for a few individuals to loot state coffers.
Fafi MP Mohamed Ousman said since not much is happening on the ground, the project risks being a white elephant – a case of another mega corruption.
“We cannot use government money to enrich very few people in this country,” he said.
MP James Lomenen (Turkana South) said “people have taken advantage to embezzle funds in such areas because they think auditors will not get there.”
He said the government must ensure it fast-tracks works on incomplete projects in South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia borders.
Muhoroni’s Onyango K’Oyoo backed calls for the DCI to be briefed on the alleged loss of funds for the perpetrators to be punished.
“It is very troubling that 7km has cost the government Sh7 billion. Does it mean each kilometre will cost Sh1 billion? The idea is noble and should be supported but with proper checks and oversight.”
Daadab MP Mohamed Dahir said, “Shabaab cannot be fought using walls. It is not clear how our security managers cannot advise our government on what to do. The government has never involved leaders in the fence project.”
WHERE HAS IT BROUGHT PEACE?
Minority leader John Mbadi (Suba South MP) asked, “As much as putting up a wall was looking flashy, where has it succeeded in the whole world? Even the Gaza strip has not brought peace. Why not think of intelligent ways of dealing with al Shabaab?”
“This idea is waste of public resources. If it is true that only 10km has been done, that alone is a clear demonstration that the project has no value for money,” Mbadi said.
Infiltration by al Shabaab operatives and criminal gangs blamed for the proliferation of small arms, kidnappings, raids on security posts, youth recruitment, and radicalisation informed the idea of constructing the barrier.
But the committee, in its report, cast aspersions on the idea citing slow pace of execution, poor quality of work, and lack of clarity on funds spent by the implementing agency.
The border securitisation is segmented to northern sector stretching from Mandera-Elwak (160km), central sector straddling Elwak-Libat (445km) and the southern part from Libat to Kiunga (105km).
The committee, chaired by Kajiado’s Moitalel ole Kenta, reported that KDF and contractors informed them that the work was slowed by attacks by al Shabaab targeting the contractors and their equipment.
Tharaka Nithi Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha, a member of the committee, said the project is not doing well and cited vandalism and massive encroachment.
“The Ministry of Defence should be serious with this project. The construction material are not reaching the ground as there are no proper roads,” Nkatha said.
Source: The Star