The advent of devolution in 2013 brought hope to locals in remote villages in Tiaty who were upbeat that basic services would now be closer to them after being marginalised in development for several years.
But close to a decade later, residents of far-flung areas are still grappling with bad roads, walk long distances to hospitals and schools and face perennial water shortages, raising questions about how ward development funds are utilised.
During every dry spell, locals must walk long distances in search of water. The ripple effect is the closure of social amenities, including health facilities and schools that cannot operate without the vital commodity.
Scramble for limited resources
This has also sparked inter-community fights arising from the scramble for limited resources.
Nation.Africa has established that although residents are involved in public participation forums that happen during the budget-making process, where they get to identify their priority projects, those projects end up being diverted by their political leaders to other areas, while some are replaced altogether with what residents don’t consider priority areas, sometimes due to vested interests.
Residents blame leaders who take advantage of the high illiteracy levels in the region, where many are clueless on the channels or processes to follow in probing stalled development projects or those that were replaced.
Mokongwo-Kasitet water project
InTangulbei, Tiaty East, for instance, Sh3 million was allocated in the 2019/20 fiscal year for the piping of the Mokongwo-Kasitet water project, which was supposed to benefit more than 3,000 in Mokongwo, Checkpoint and Cherelkat villages.
Micah Toroitich, a resident, said the borehole was drilled by a donor – a Catholic mission through the diocese of Nakuru in 2018.
In negotiations with the donor, the community agreed to allocate some funds in the 2019/20 financial for piping so that the water could reach neighbouring villages that also faced water shortages.
“During public participation, we unanimously agreed to allocate Sh3 million for the work. When we reviewed the reports later, we were shocked to see that there was no money allocated to the project and the Sh3 million had been diverted to other projects, including the distribution of beehives, grants, training of cooperatives and societies which we did not agree on as a community,” said Mr Toroitich.
Walk to fetch water
Today, locals are still grappling with water scarcity and some must walk more than 12km to fetch water from a borehole, something that could have been eased by piping and distribution to the areas.
The next borehole from Mokongwo is more than 12km away. During drought, it dries up, forcing locals to walk many kilometres to Churo and Mukutani, which leads to fights over the limited resource.
The Ayan borehole in the same ward faces the same challenges after being allocated more than Sh9 million since 2018 but is yet to materialise.
During the 2017/18 financial year, the project was allocated Sh6.5 million for drilling, piping and equipping but has remained a white elephant.
The drilling and equipping of the Kalas borehole in Chepkalacha was also allocated Sh4 million in the 2018/19 financial year. It was sunk a year later and the contractor left the site.
Elvis Mariach, a resident, said the borehole was only drilled and sealed and has not served the intended purpose because it was not equipped as planned.
“When we inquired from the ministry, we were told that the money we allocated was not enough. We wonder why they did not raise such issues during public participation but went ahead to approve it,” Mr Mariach said.
The community allocated more money in 2019/20 to complete the project but no work has been done at the site.
Chepoyoria irrigation project
The Chepoyoria irrigation project in Tangulbei-Korosi ward has also become a white elephant after it was allocated Sh10 million in the 2018/2019 fiscal year to serve as an alternative source of livelihoods for locals, who depend on livestock keeping that has contributed to perennial fights due to banditry and stock theft.
The project also entailed piping water from the adjacent Lake Baringo to Keriwok, which was allocated an additional Sh5 million.
“All the projects we are talking of now are not there and the millions allocated to them cannot be traced. We don’t understand if there is some political interference because we elected leaders to represent us, but we are still suffering, just relying on seasonal rivers to get water,” said Mr Mariach.
Ayan water project
In the 2019-2020 fourth-quarter budget implementation report seen by Nation.Africa, records show that the Ayan water project, among the projects rolled over from the previous year, was allocated Sh2 million and its physical status is complete, a misrepresentation of what is on the ground.
The report also indicates that the Kalas borehole was allocated Sh4 million in the same year and its status is complete as well per the records, while the Chepoyoria irrigation project was allocated Sh3 million and it is at billing stage.
From the quarterly report, Mokongwo water supply was allocated Sh2 million and its status indicates that it is a condemned project. But a spot check by Nation.Africa revealed the borehole is a major source of water in the locality.
Donyasas and Nyakwala dispensaries
Some other projects in Ribkwo-Kositei ward that also suffered the same fate in the 2021/2022 financial year are the Kaos-Kasakaram road, the Donyasas and Nyakwala dispensaries, which were replaced with the purchase of motorcycles for Sh6 million, Galla goats (Sh3 million), Sahiwal bulls (Sh5 million), beehives (Sh3 million), capacity building (Sh3 million), a car wash (Sh1 million) and purchase of solar panels (Sh2 million).
In a budget credibility and social audit in Baringo County conducted in 2020 by the Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG) in collaboration with International Budget Partnership Kenya (IBPK), budget implementation in the region has been hampered by myriad challenges related to programming and financing.
CEDGG programmes officer Evans Kibet cited challenges with budgeting, noting that over the years, citizens were given influence over ward-level capital project selection, and what they select cannot be changed, including the amounts they allocate to each project despite lacking sufficient information or technical support to ensure that their proposals are feasible, and to allocate adequate funds.
Some “80 percent of the projects under social audit were allocated Sh2 million or less, with communities expecting the borehole to be drilled, equipped and water piped into their homes,” he said.
Technical staff in the water sector say it is challenging for such projects to take off or get completed when they are acutely underfunded,” said Mr Kibet.
Water Chief Officer John Kidogo said there has been slow implementation of projects because some contractors have no capacity to deliver the projects.
He claimed that most of those who are awarded the contracts end up over-quoting their cost, a situation that has forced the devolved unit to re-tender, resulting in delays.
But Mr Kidogo cited water from the Mokongwo borehole, drilled by a donor in Tangulbei, as unfit for human consumption and the county government was unable to carry out the piping as agreed by locals.
“In fact, we explained the problem to locals and they agreed that we carry out the piping of water from Napeikore, which is another source, because the initial source was unfit for human consumption as per the water experts. The project is now at the procurement stage,” said Mr Kidogo.