Friday, October 23, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
October 23, 2009

Like many Kenyans, I also get easily excited when I hear good news coming from government sources from time to time, especially when such news are about poverty alleviation.

Having lived in rural Kenya in my early childhood, with my roots still deeply embedded in my village, I understand it well when the government announces that water dams will be built in arid regions as it allocates Ks 4 billion in its budget for the Kazi Kwa Vijana initiative.

These two items are the stories I have been following keenly since they started making headlines soon after the budget speech. I saw President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga break the ground for the KKV initiative in Kajiado. It suddenly dawned on me that the two gentlemen were serious and meant business. Soon after, funds were disbursed by the Treasury to various ministries to implement the project as prescribed by the Office of The Prime Minister.

By the look of things, it would appear like nothing was left to chance in planning the implementation of the KKV project. The Treasury itself took over Ks 2 million just to audit the operation. The Ministry of Planning took over Ks 20 million to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the whole project. With the Office of the Prime Minister allocated Ks 50 million for coordination and supervision, one could say that the operation of the KKV initiative was water tight.

Now, just three months into the financial year, news coming from the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s office are not encouraging. The blame game has started in earnest. Whereas, there is talk of sabotage from the Prime Minister’s Office, the drumbeat coming from the Treasury is different. It is loudly singling out graft and mismanagement of the first batch released earlier this financial year.

If indeed the over Ks2 billion released this year to various ministries have not been accounted for, it is prudent that the coordinators at the Prime Minister’s office with a Ks 50 million budget carry out their job with speed because we cannot allow the youth of Kenya to lose faith again so soon after we had raised their hopes so high.

It is in the interest of this coalition government that the Prime Minister takes charge of this operation, sit with his deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and sort out this mess at their earliest opportunity. It is in their interest to realize that that engaging in blame game is not good for this country and neither is it doing each one of them any good.

Kenyans would urge the Prime Minister and his deputy at the Treasury that should there be saboteurs in their dockets for whatever reason, that are hell bent in derailing the project, let them deal with these insiders that thrive on chaos and discord within the coalition.

Along with the controversy over the KKV fund is the politics of water now raging in Eastern Province. Like the KKV fund debate, this water war is equally unnecessary when one remembers that just the other day, Kenyans and their livestock were dying in numbers due to acute draught.

Where I come from in Nyanza, my area may not be as arid as Ukambani and North Eastern Province. But I can testify that once in a year, we go through real spells of draught that finding water for humans and their animals becomes a daunting task. For this reason, the few well to do individuals living in the area have spent fortunes of their savings sinking boreholes in their villages.

I therefore find it baffling that if a minister of water can go out of her way to harvest rainwater and sink boreholes for deserving communities, we should turn that into a negative debate. For what it is worth, let us urge Charity Ngilu to move on with the programme and tackle water problems countrywide once and for all.

Obviously the reason we Kenyans are discussing KKV and Ngilu’s water programme is because these are multi-billion projects that are bound to attract many suppliers of all sorts. Therefore controlling the purse strings of these two projects makes managers like Ngilu and their chief officers the target of all manner of accusations some of which are mere malice, envy or cases of sour grapes.

At best some of these complaints have less to do with genuine concern for probity and more to do with having an edge over rivals politically. In this case the solution is simple. Let each cabinet minister see what he or she can do with his or her docket for the people of Kenya and use the department effectively to deliver the relevant services to the people of Kenya.

Finally, let us never for a moment think of derailing the Kazi Kwa Vijana project because in doing so, we will hurt ourselves more as politicians than we will hurt the Vijana of Kenya. Let us for a moment think of the suffering mothers and elders in Turkana, Kajiado, Kitui, Mwingi, Moyale and Marsabit before we bring politics into the water department.