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July, 2018

 

MPs want Rotich, Adan punished over bad sugar

By DAVID MWERE
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Members of Parliament investigating the entry of contraband sugar into the country now want Cabinet secretaries Henry Rotich (Treasury), Adan Mohamed (East African Community) and former Agriculture CS Willy Bett held responsible for conspiring to endanger the lives of Kenyans.

The members of the National Assembly committee on Agriculture and Livestock and that on Trade, Industry and Co-operatives want the government officers held culpable for their actions that saw the entry into the Kenyan market of the sugar, feared to be laced with elements of heavy metals, including mercury, lead and copper.

Also indicted are some parastatal heads who have been accused of sleeping on the job.

The two committees, co-chaired by Mandera South MP Adan Ali and his Kieni colleague Kanini Kega, have been investigating the matter since June 19, after Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda sought a ministerial statement over the suitability of the sugar in the market.

HEAVY METALS

The report by Government Chemist Ali Gakweli has confirmed that the sugar consumed by the military at the Moi Airbase in Eastleigh, Nairobi, and Bungoma is laced with elements of heavy metals like mercury, copper and lead.

On Tuesday, the 38- member committee was sharply divided over whether to use the Government Chemist report or ignore it during its report writing.

However, a faction led by Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati had its way after outmuscling the one led by the two chairs.

“There is no doubt that the actions by the government officers that led to the flooding of the Kenyan market with cheap and poisonous sugar were malicious and they ought to carry their own cross,” a member of the committee said.

The committee has also sanctioned Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS), Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Sony Sugar Company among others.

LOST IN TAXES

Similarly, the committee has recommended that KRA recovers about Sh10.5 billion the government lost in taxes from the 14 companies that imported sugar outside the duty waiver period.

The Sh10 billion loss is on top of the Sh36 billion that the government is said to have lost in VAT and import duty exemptions, according to KRA during the waiver period of between May and December last year.

Mr Rotich is on the spot over the three suspicious gazette notices he issued in the importation of duty-free sugar between May and December last year.

In the 4536 notice of between May 12 to August 31, 2017, Mr Rotich did not specify the quality and quantity of sugar to be imported despite his Agriculture colleague Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri advising so.

The notice also permitted everyone including those not licensed, to import the commodity thereby compromising quality and standards.

As if this was not enough, the CS intervened and issued gazette notice to allow 14 companies that had imported outside the duty waiver period, to have their consignments cleared by KRA without paying the import duty.


 How to stay safe on Kenya’s deadliest roads

By STELLA CHERONO
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The National Transport and Safety Authority has identified 273 most deadly spots for pedestrians and motorists.

The Mombasa-Malaba road, usually referred to as the Northern Corridor, has sections totalling to 391 kilometres where one is most likely to be involved in an accident.

In Nairobi, 52 kilometres of various roads are classified as black spots.

The spots have increased dramatically from 166 in 2013 because of a growing population, poor paths for pedestrians and cyclists, encroachment on road reserves and bad behaviour by road users.

A recent NTSA report profiles every accident spot and gives suggestions on saving lives.

Among the recommendations is modification of roads and proper location of hospitals.

SALGAA STRETCH

On the notorious Salgaa stretch, the authority identified a new black spot.

It is on a 9.7-kilometre straight stretch with a single bend and brow of a hill.

“The hilly section usually has slow moving vehicles. Cattle cross at some sections but there are no signs. The road markings have also faded,” the report says.

“The reasons for the many accidents at the spot include speeding, careless overtaking and unsafe pedestrian crossing. The signs are not adequate.”

Transport Principal Secretary Paul Maringa said the main reasons for accidents are human error, the condition of vehicles and road designs.

“Fixing or improving single elements such as road design and signage may not reduce crashes in future,” Prof Maringa said during the launch of the Northern Corridor and Nairobi County route mapping report.

“Equal emphasis must be placed on vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists, motorbike operators, the disabled and children.”

3,000 DEATHS

He added that more than 3,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injuries recorded annually have a serious implications on society and the country’s economy.

NTSA chairman Jackson Waweru said the number of deaths from accidents decreased from 2,965 in 2016 to 2,919 in 2017, but admitted that the figure is still very high.

He added that some of the interventions implemented by the authority include enhancing road use awareness and introducing a curriculum for training, testing and licensing of drivers, instructors and examiners.

Others are the testing of drivers working for long distance travel saccos and introducing technology in most services provided by the authority, such as the Transport Integrated Management System.

“The Authority has rolled out the issuance of the smart driving licence. Finally, there is an increased road safety management and coordination through county transport and safety committees,” he said.

Mr Waweru added that passengers are the major victims of crashes on the corridor.

WET SEASONS

He said accidents take place throughout the week, during day and night and in dry and wet seasons. Nairobi has the highest number crashes.

The upgraded Outering Road is the deadliest, with more than 23 fatalities recorded since the beginning of the year.

Thika Superhighway, which is also on the list of the deadliest roads, has 16 black spots.

“There are footbridges but they are not often used by pedestrians or are constructed away from human traffic points,” the NTSA report says.

“There is also evidence of public service vehicles not stopping at designated areas. Speed bumps cause accidents, particularly during the night and weekends.”

EASTERN BYPASS

Other deadly roads in Nairobi include Landhies (Muthurwa), Jogoo, Lang’ata, Kangundo, Eastern Bypass, Southern Bypass, Mbagathi Way and Northern Bypass.

The biggest contributors of fatalities and injuries on these roads are unsafe pedestrian crossing (near roadside markets or businesses, residential areas and schools), inadequate or absence of road sign and road markings, driver behaviour (speeding, careless overtaking, obstruction by matatus, the use of undesignated bus stops and reckless motorcyclists).

The authority recommended a multi-sectored approach in reducing fatalities that includes enforcement, road construction agencies, county governments and road safety non-governmental organisations.

“Continuous monitoring of surface and maintenance of road furniture and signage is another priority,” the NTSA report says.

“Road safety audits are a useful tool in this regard.”


Raila meets western leaders, promises to help deliver goodies

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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ODM leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday met elected leaders from western and promised to intervene to have two sugar companies saved from collapse and Pan Paper Mills revived.

He also assured them that he will have people from communities in the region incorporated into government in the spirit of building bridges.

Mr Odinga made the promises during a meeting with 17 MPs led by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

The governor had told the former Prime Minister the collapse of Pan Paper Mills and the problems facing Mumias Sugar and Nzoia Sugar companies had greatly injured the economy of the region. He called for quick intervention if the lives of the people are to be bettered.

Mumias Sugar is the main economic mainstay of the region but despite the government injecting into it Sh3.5 billion as bailout in the last three years, the miller continues to struggle with debts, including Sh600 million owed to farmers for cane delivered. It is estimated the company has debts amounting to between Sh26 and Sh30 billion.

IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION

Details of Nzoia Sugar’s precarious financial position have been laid out. The company is indebted to the tune of Sh32 billion, with farmers owed Sh530 million for delivered cane.

A source told the Nation that Mr Oparanya delivered the grim reality of the situation to Mr Odinga complete with an update status of the factories and demanded an immediate intervention to ensure the processors are back on the rails.

“The sugar industry is our heart and soul and its problems are painful to the region. The people of Western Kenya have not gained much from the national government’s flagship project and it is our prayer that these millers should be taken as the region’s priority projects,” the source said the governor told Mr Odinga.

Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala asked Mr Odinga to exploit his new-found friendship with President Uhuru Kenyatta to have more members of the Luhya community appointed to senior positions, arguing that the Jubilee government had neglected the region.

GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS

He was supported by Mr Oparanya, who argued that the Luhya community has not benefited much from government appointments, and pleaded with the former PM to ensure its members benefit from the March 9 handshake with President Kenyatta.

A similar meeting is planned with the President on a date to be announced soon.

“Mr Odinga assured the leaders of his support,” the source said.

When reached for the comment, Mr Oparanya said the crux of the meeting was to affirm support for the Building Bridges Initiative, “and explore how we can gain from the opportunities brought about by the handshake.”

Kakamega is set to host this year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations at Bukhungu Stadium on October 20.

The governor used the meeting to brief the former Prime Minister on the status of the preparations.


Bleak future for tourism as destruction of Mau continues

By BERNARDINE MUTANU
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By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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The soothing sound of water flowing from a natural spring by the roadside welcomes us to the eastern Mau forest.

It is a cool and quiet day. Indigenous and exotic trees line the road. Further down, cows are grazing at the point where mixed vegetation and the forest cover starts.

A drive deep into the complex brings us to Enapuyiapui swamp in Kiptunga forest. It has long green grass and reeds. Eucalyptus, pine, cypress and cedar trees ring it.

This is the source of River Mara and many others that give life to many parts of Kenya and beyond.

River Mara is one of the main tourism drivers in Kenya, not just through the wildlife it supports but also the spectacular wildebeest migration, which started last week.

However, human activities are adversely affecting the Mara and its tributary Amalo.

GREEN PASTURE

With the rainy season on and green pasture all around, livestock are grazing in the swamp.

Mr Joseph Lesingo, who grew up in Kiptunga forest, says grazing remains a contested issue. But that is not the only problem. He says exotic trees brought in by colonialists pose a threat to the water tower.

But there are some positives too. The ban on logging seems to have slowed down degradation of Mau forest. Sawmillers, including companies like Timsales, in the nearby Elburgon, Molo and Nakuru towns, closed shop.

Sonki Forest in MauA heap of burning charcoal in Sonki Forest in Mau on July 27, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Even with that, threats to the forest remain. On the edge of the enormous wetland is a small structure which once housed a water pump.

It has been vandalised but the stains of the oil that used to power it are evident on the floor.

It pumped fresh water from the swamp to tanks, which supplied hundreds of squatters in Kiptunga forest.

The squatters were flushed out in 1992 on the eve of the multiparty era. Many others remain in the forest.

TREES CLEARED

Up the slope, trees have been cleared while a plaque erected by Prime Minister Raila Odinga in January 2010 has been destroyed.

Enapuiyapui swamp is the source of life for more than 160 million people and livestock in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and Egypt.

Livelihoods that are threatened by the mindless destruction of the forest. The Mau is the biggest of Kenya’s five water towers. It is double the size of the Aberdares and Mt Kenya combined.

The Mau complex was made up of 22 forests until one was hived off by the Kanu administration. It is the source of all but one of the main rivers cutting through the western side of the Rift Valley.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, it is the main fountain for 12 rivers.

Five end up in Lake Victoria, which is the source of River Nile, the lifeline for South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.

KERIO RIVER

The other rivers are Yala, Nyando and Sondu. The source of River Ewaso Ng’iro is the Mau. It flows all the way to Lake Natron in Tanzania, feeding crops, people, livestock, forests and wild animals.

Lake Nakuru, famous for its flamingoes, is fed by Mau through rivers Njoro, Makalia, Naishi and Nderit.

River Kerio also originates in the Mau and meanders to Lake Turkana. Like those that feed lakes Victoria and Natron, it is a transboundary river.

Maasai Mau ForestLogs of indigenous tress lie at Kipchoge area of Maasai Mau Forest in Narok County on July 26, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Lake Baringo and the communities between it and the Mau, when considered in linear formation, thrive on River Molo, whose level, especially on the Nakuru-Koibatek-Baringo phase, has dropped considerably.

Rivers flowing from the Mau are the lifeline of major tourism destinations, including Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Lake Nakuru National Park.

These two recorded revenues of Sh3 billion and Sh1 billion respectively from entry fees alone in 2017.

POOR FLOW OF WATER

Mau has the potential to produce 535MW  of hydroelectric power, representing 47 per cent of Kenya’s installed electricity generation capacity.

The poor flow of water from this tower has led to reduced inflow into the Sondu Miriu hydroelectric power plant that is now operating below capacity.

The forest acts as a natural tower for Kenya, storing water during the rainy season and releasing it during dry periods.

The Nation sought to establish the level of destruction of the complex and went to five counties — Nakuru, Kericho, Baringo, Narok and Bomet.

Agriculture, logging, charcoal burning, settlement and other human activities have destroyed the complex and disrupted its role of storing and distributing water.

The complex is 273,300 hectares but a large chunk in the Maasai Mau, eastern and south western Mau has been destroyed.

Trees have been cleared to pave way for farms and other developments as people continue encroaching upon the forest. 

The undulating landscape with unending hills and valleys is punctuated by red (soil) and green (crops) colours with only patched canopies.

While some areas are heavily cultivated, others are just but bare soil. They stretch as far as the eye can see. The most affected is the Maasai Mau forest and the eastern Mau where there is a high population density.

Maasai Mara RiverA hippo rests inside the Maasai Mara River on July 26, 2018. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We will not sit back and watch as the forest is destroyed. The international community should intervene because this issue does not affect Kenya only,” Mr Kelena ole Nchoe, a resident, said. 

The story is the same from Marioshoni, Molo, Njoro and Mau Summit where tree stumps and crops have replaced what used to be a dense forest.

It is common to come across women with bundles of firewood and children carrying charcoal on roads in Keringet, Marioshoni, Elburgon and Molo.

ENCROACHMENT

In 2008, the area of Maasai Mau, which had been destroyed through encroachment, was 42,000 acres. It has increased to around 115,000 acres, according to Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta.

Trans Mara and Olepusimoru forests are still intact though they may not remain so for long.

“We support the evictions from the forest. Without the Mau, Kenya will perish,” Mr Joseph ole Karia, an elder in Narok, told journalists.  

Maasai Mara RiverA crocodile rests in Maasai Mara River on July 31, 2018. Low water level in the river has affected the annual wildebeest migration from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Nation team followed rivers Amalo, Mara and Ewaso Ng’iro. Despite the recent heavy rains, they have little water and are heavily silted.

The water is brown and gets murkier as it flows into the plains of Narok.

DESTRUCTION OF FORESTS

“In the next few weeks, there will be no water in the river,” Mrs Mary Kantai said of Ewaso Ng’iro.

In the Maasai Mara Reserve, where hundreds of thousands of wildlife depend on the Mara River, the volume is little. One can even see the backs of hippos and crocodiles. 

Mr Nchoe said the death of Mau would be the end of most aquatic life, wildlife, livestock, plants and even humans. 

“Despite the recent heavy rains and flooding, the water level has gone down very fast. The  reservoir is no longer holding it, probably because of the destruction of the forest. It has become like a carcass,” said Mr James Pere, the manager of Keekorok Lodge.


Kenya needs Sh45bn for HIV treatment

By ANGELA OKETCH
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The National Aids Control Council requires Sh45 billion annually to place HIV positive patients on treatment alone.

The amount does not include other aspects of HIV control, including testing and counselling, awareness creation and prevention measures.

According to the council’s deputy director, Ms Regina Ombam, they have only settled on key areas of treatment and should they include everything, then the amount will be higher.

“We are in talks with National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to see how we can include HIV treatment. We have done our evaluation and we are now in the process of identifying how to raise funds to boost the pool of NHIF resources,” she said.

SUPPORT HIV PROGRAMMES

She said the council is in talks with partners, who support HIV programmes, to channel their resources to NHIF.

Donors have traditionally supported Kenya’s healthcare, providing Sh7 for every Sh10 set aside to address HIV.

Some 1.64 million Kenyans are currently living with the condition, but the figure could shoot to 6.9 million by 2060.

But the donor stream is unpredictable and fragmented and often fails to arrive when it is most needed.

Ms Ombam warned that HIV is becoming less of a medical calamity and more of a fiscal liability.

The gap is filled by the government, private sector, households and non-governmental organisations.

PAY SH20,000

She noted that the government pays at least Sh20,000 for one person’s ARV treatment for a year, saying the introduction of NHIF cover will greatly reduce the cost.

In Kenya’s strategic framework, it had envisioned that in 2019, it will have increased its domestic financing for HIV to 50 per cent.

 By 2013, the country had set aside Sh1.5 billion, which increased to Sh2.6 billion in 2015. In 2016/2017, the government set aside Sh2.8 billion.

Ms Hellen Magutu, Kenya programme co-ordinator HIV/AIDS at the International Labour Organisation, said anti-retroviral treatment is lifelong; no country should depend on donor funding.

“Transition of countries towards domestic funding is a critical area. Kenya needs to do the same. It needs to be done in a partnership mode involving donors, national governments, the private sector and civil society,” she said.


Patients detained at KNH over bills spend nights on cold floor

By ANGELA OKETCH
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For three nights now, Mr Joseph Thatia has been sleeping under bed number 26 in Ward 6C at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

He was discharged from the orthopaedic ward on July 12, but he can’t leave because he has a bill of Sh83,000.

Some of his fellow detainees have been lucky to share a bed with other patients, but the unlucky ones like Mr Thatia sleep on the floor or wait for daybreak.

“All the beds are always occupied. For two days I have slept under the bed on the bare floor, without even a blanket. In this cold and rainy weather, I am afraid we will get seriously sick if nothing is done about our situation,” he said yesterday.

Mr Thatia, a boda boda rider, was involved in an accident in May and was brought to the hospital by well-wishers.

RECEIVING TREATMENT

After 17 weeks of treatment, he was discharged, but he can’t leave. He passes the time on the corridors with his fellow detainees and seeks solace in the ward at night.

On Monday, doctors came to the ward and asked those who had been discharged to step out, so that they could count the number of patients who were still receiving treatment.

 “When we came back, our beds had new occupants, but we were not told where to go. At the same time, we can’t leave the hospital because we don’t have a discharge sheet,” a forlorn Mr Thatia told the Nation, adding that 18 patients stepped out, but only eight came back. The whereabouts of the other 10 remain unknown.

Another person who suffers the same fate is Mr David Munyao, who was discharged on June 21.

He has been thrown out of the ward several times, but he can’t go home until his bill is settled. On Monday, he was thrown out of the ward and told to look for somewhere else to sleep.

“There is nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep. Why can’t they just let us go home? They don’t want us here anyway,” lamented Mr Munyao, who was admitted to the hospital in January and owes Sh347,000.

“I am the breadwinner. The longer I am detained here, the worse the situation for my family. If they let me go, I’ll be able to get back on my feet and start paying the bill,” added the former G4S employee.

The two are a representation of several cases of hospitals detaining patients for failure to pay their bills. They are now appealing to the hospital to let them go home.

They are willing to sign written agreements on how to settle the bill with the hospital.

When reached for comment, KNH CEO Thomas Mutie said he was not aware of the cases. “We don’t detain patients. I have to investigate why they are still in the hospital,” he said.

RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Legal experts have previously warned that detaining patients over medical bills violates their rights and freedoms, but hospitals continue with the practice anyway.

A recent study by UK-based Chatham House noted that Kenya is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the practice is widespread.

“Patient detention deters healthcare use, increases impoverishment and is a denial of international human rights standards, including the right not to be imprisoned as a debtor and the right to access to medical care,” the study notes.


Kavuludi denies claims of plans to merge AP, regular police arms

By BENSON AMADALA  
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The main arms of the National Police Service will continue to run under one head but with distinct operational mandates.

On Tuesday, National Police Service Commission (NPSC) sought to clarify earlier claims that the Administration Police (AP) and the Regular Police divisions will be merged.

Instead, NPSC chairman Johnston Kavuludi said the imminent restructuring will ensure their operations do not conflict or duplicate one another.

This, Mr Kavuludi said, will ensure consistency in the command structure of the AP and Regular police divisions.

He spoke on Tuesday after meeting police chiefs in western region, where he assured them there will be no dissolution of either arms of the police.

The NPSC says it was forced to clarify the claims after misleading reports that the divisions — traditionally trained differently — would be merged.

OVERLAP FUNCTIONS

The commission says it has to tinker with the way the divisions are run to eliminate overlap of functions, which has occasionally led to a clash of the two sides.

“If approved, then we will function in such a manner as to create greater efficiency and effectiveness in the service without duplication, overlaps and without the necessity for people to be ambivalent about who provides what services,” Mr Kavuludi said.

“As law enforcers, you should be able to offer solutions to security challenges communities face instead of compounding the insecurity problems in places you serve,” he said.

The AP are traditionally assigned duties of guarding government installations and guarding VIPs. The regular police are, on the other hand, the most visible law enforcers when dealing with civilians.

They are further divided into various units, each handling specific areas.

Under the 2010 Constitution, the two divisions were brought together under the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) as the overall head, departing from the previous arrangement where the AP were led by a Commandant while the Regular police were led by the Commissioner of Police. Under the new system, each division is led by a Deputy IGP.

But that has not stopped occasional conflicts between the two sides. The law enforcers have occasionally been embroiled in nasty scenes.

For example, they accuse each other of abetting the cover-up of contraband goods and illicit brews being sneaked into the local market from neighbouring Uganda.

In fact, this conflict has been blamed for the escalation of insecurity in parts of the country.

Mr Kavuludi has further pledged that the government was doing everything possible to improve the living conditions of police officers by providing them with decent houses.

GOOD IMAGE

He said that after the restructuring is completed, the report will be handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta for “consideration”.

But Mr Kavuludi warned the officers to project a good image of the service by maintaining discipline and avoiding corrupt practices.

Mr Kavuludi led officers to discuss the proposed regulations and policies on training, housing, counselling and welfare at the meeting held at the Magharibi Hall at the former provincial headquarters.

He said the draft will be published and launched by the end of next month after NPSC receives views from all regions.


Recovering alcoholics in Kiambu County protest over delayed pay

By ERIC WAINAINA
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A programme in which the Kiambu County government has been paying recovering alcoholics Sh400 daily has been hit by a cash crunch.

The county government now owes the beneficiaries Sh40 million in arrears.

Some 5,000 beneficiaries of the controversial programme, dubbed “Kaa Sober”, have been getting Sh2 million daily after doing menial work such as collecting garbage, clearing bushes on the roadsides and unblocking drainages.

However, the county government has not paid them for the last 20 days and each of them is now demanding Sh8,000, which totals to Sh40 million.

In some wards, the youths have downed their tools and vowed not to resume work until their dues are paid, saying their pursuit for answers has been futile.

SOURCE OF INCOME

Ms Feristas Wanjiru from Kamburu ward in Lari, who is part of the programme, said the last time they received the cash was on July 3.

Ms Wanjiru, who before joining the programme was a waitress at a local bar, said despite non-payment, they continued to perform their duties until last Friday.

“We are not ready to go back to work unless we get our dues. This has been our only source of income since we quit out previous jobs. How do they expect us to continue working without pay? How do they expect us to survive?” asked the mother of two.

Mr Harun Mbugua, also from Kamburu, and who previously worked as a mason, said currently he owes shopkeepers close to Sh5,000 because he has been forced to buy foodstuffs on credit.

MCAs who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said the situation is similar in all wards and they are apprehensive that unless the matter is sorted out quickly, the youths might engage in criminal activities in order to survive.

DEMAND DUES
The circumstances, said the MCAs, had made their lives miserable since the beneficiaries have been camping outside their homes and offices to demand their dues.

The County Executive Committee member for Finance Mburu Kang’ethe on Tuesday confirmed the delayed payment, but blamed it on government policies during the transition from one financial year to another, which he said affects government expenditure.

“We have just closed a financial year, and we are starting a new one and all the systems have been stopped by the Treasury. It has been common practice that anything that has not been paid on or before June 29 is stopped until the new budgets and work plans are uploaded in the system,” said Mr Mburu.

County leaders, among them Senator Kimani Wamatangi, Woman Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba and a section of MPs, have been questioning the programme’s transparency and sustainability.


About-turn on cheaper power bills shocking

By EDITORIAL
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The sharp increase in electricity tariffs for middle-class consumers is a surprising repudiation of the government’s own pledges to reduce the cost of power for all consumers.

According to the new tariffs announced on Monday by the Energy Regulatory Commission, this category of consumers will have their power bills go up by up to 54 per cent, while large-scale consumers, especially industries, will enjoy a 50 per cent cost reduction.

Though small-scale electricity users will enjoy double digit drops, the new tariffs are rather punitive to the consumers who are hardest hit by inflation.

When it came to power in 2013, the Jubilee leadership promised to ensure that every citizen is connected to reliable and affordable electricity by 2020.

It also pledged to complete the development of new power plants currently under construction, including the 310 MW Lake Turkana Wind Power Plant (the largest wind power plant in Africa), and the two units in Olkaria, which were expected to add another 210 MW to the grid.

DRASTIC REDUCTION

Last week, Energy Principal Secretary John Njoroge told the consumers to expect a drastic reduction in electricity bills from September when the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project will be connected to the national grid. A month to the promised relief, the government has done the complete about-turn.

The reality is that while the current administration has connected more homes to the national grid, it has also saddled the consumers with punitive costs that negate the whole policy of lighting up homes.

At a time when the cost of living is at an all-time high, an extra burden on the shoulders of power consumers is a blistering insult.

The bills are high because the government has been unable to fully bring on board cheaper power alternatives such as geothermal and wind.

The sooner it completes stalled projects across the country, the better for the nation.

MEGA CORRUPTION

The energy sector has lately been in the news for mega corruption scandals which raise serious questions about the management of power firms and the authenticity of bills and the whole billing system.

Still, the power sector has always operated on a risk-free investment model where investors are not responsible for fuel charges, currency fluctuations and inflation, inconveniences which are passed on to consumers. The average power consumer pays much more in taxes and adjustments for investors than for what he actually consumes.

The government must shield the consumer from these extraneous charges and shift them to the investors if it is serious about connecting every home by 2020.

The power sector is crying out for a thorough clean-up if only to inspire public confidence but most all, the government owes Kenyans an explanation as to why it has gone back on its promise with such blatant ease.


Curb pain, loss in road accidents

By EDITORIAL
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With an estimated 3,000 deaths every year, road accidents pose a heavy burden to the country.

Resources are being diverted from national development to take care of those injured, but worse, since the majority of the victims are from the most productive segment of the population, this menace slows down progress.

Indeed, the problem has been compounded in most towns and even in the rural areas, with the entry of the rogue boda boda transport sub-sector.

Today, almost every hospital reports a huge increase in admissions of accident victims, with the motorbike riders and their passengers taking up more of the bed space that could have gone to patients suffering from acute illnesses.

CURB ROAD DEATHS

The latest report by the National Transport and Safety Authority says that road crashes cost the country Sh352 billion or 5.6 per cent of the gross domestic product annually.

This is colossal sum of money that could have improved the lives of Kenyans if used to provide water supply, health facilities and even roads.

The setting up of the NTSA was a response to this colossal wastage so that it could come up with measures to curb the road deaths.

Past surveys have shown that human error plays a significant role in accidents, either through poor judgment by motorists and cyclists or having inexperienced or incompetent people behind the wheel or handlebars.

Speeding and recklessness and drunkenness have also been cited.

But the NTSA report also has named some black spots. Thika Road, Outering Road, Mombasa Road and bypasses in Nairobi as some of the deadliest spots for pedestrians.

The real pain is in the injuries occasioned by this menace, the health burden, disabilities and long term psychological effects, and loss of breadwinners.

The national capacity to curb road accidents must be stepped up.