The cost of abandoning, replacing Uhuru projects

Kazi Mtaani

Youths in Elburgon Town in Nakuru County during the Kazi Mtaani Initiative on July 14, 2022. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Taxpayers stand to lose billions of shillings as President William Ruto’s administration accelerates the cancellation of some big-money projects by his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta. This underlines a major shift in spending priorities under the Kenya Kwanza regime.

Recent moves have raised fresh questions about the use of taxpayers’ money in the face of increasing multiple taxes including pay-as-you-earn, value-added tax , excise duty and housing levy yet the funds end up on some projects that are done away with when a new government comes to power or priorities shift. 

This was illustrated recently when Roads and Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen revealed that government is considering demolishing the 824-metre Liwatoni floating bridge that cost Sh1.9 billion.

The bridge was built to ease congestion at the Likoni ferry and is used by pedestrians during the day but is opened for ships to pass through at night.

During a visit to Mombasa, the CS argued that the bridge had led to congestion leading to delays in clearance of goods. His predecessor, James Macharia, had in December 2020 said Liwatoni was a temporary measure and would be brought down in 2025 once the Mombasa Gate Bridge is completed.

“We want to do away with that bridge which has created congestion in our port. The conversation is ongoing to see if we should expedite the Dongo Kundu Road,” said Mr Murkomen.

President Ruto has also abandoned the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) commonly known as Huduma Namba.

Kenya rolled out the mass distribution of the Huduma Namba card in 2019, which contained relevant information about an individual and was to replace the national identity card.

It would also enable individuals to access various government services as well as use it as a travel document within East Africa.

Labelling the project a “complete sham”, Dr Ruto has given Huduma Namba a wide berth, stating that taxpayers also lost an estimated Sh15 billion through the controversial project.

Dr Ruto on June 30 pledged to implement a new digital identification system within 90 days instead, which will also see taxpayers pay additional billions.

“In the next 90 days, we must have a Digital ID. That digital ID has been traumatic for Kenya. We are all aware of Huduma Namba that was a complete fraud. We lost almost Sh15 billion and got very little out of it,” he said. 

Another major Uhuru-era policy reversed by Dr Ruto is the clearance of goods at the Nairobi and Naivasha Inland Container Depots (ICDS). Mr Kenyatta’s administration had forced traders to use the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in a bid to recoup part of the $5.1 billion (Sh732.36 billion) loan that the Jubilee administration took to build the railway.

While the move was expected to decongest the port of Mombasa while lowering the cost of transporting goods, it did not go down well with cargo owners who were being forced to ferry their goods to Nairobi or Naivasha via the SGR for onward clearance.

President Ruto, however, swiftly reversed this decision when he took office by returning the clearance of goods to Mombasa arguing that this would restore thousands of jobs that had been lost at the coastal city.

“I will issue instructions for clearance of all goods and other operational issues to revert to the port of Mombasa,” said Mr Ruto during his inauguration.

The Head of State has also abandoned Kazi Mtaani, a project initiated by Mr Kenyatta to create jobs for youths rendered jobless due to the effects of Covid-19.

“We will create enough jobs for our young people without using them to collect garbage,” said Dr Ruto.

Before it was abandoned, the project had already gobbled up Sh1.3 billion in phase one, while Sh2.4 billion and Sh5.6 billion had been earmarked for phases two and three respectively. 

This has also extended to the 47 counties, where some governors have abandoned projects put up by their predecessors as they seek to craft their own legacies.

In Nairobi for instance, Governor Johnson Sakaja announced in June that he would do away with the Green Park Terminus that cost the taxpayer Sh250 million, built by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services.