Eugene Wamalwa gets Water but without irrigation function

President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulates Mr Eugene Wamalwa after he was sworn in as the Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary at State House in Nairobi on July 9, 2015.

What you need to know:

  • Despite the docket falling under his mandate it stays with Agriculture.
  • Critical part of his ministry has been retained in the Agriculture docket.

Intrigues and controversy continue to surround the appointment of Mr Eugene Wamalwa as Cabinet Secretary even after an inordinately long wait.

Despite the docket being named Water and Irrigation, a letter seen by the Sunday Nation detailing the ministry’s scope indicates the multi-billion-shilling irrigation function has largely been retained in the Agriculture ministry. The water docket was taken from Prof Judi Wakhungu’s Environment ministry.

Last week, we reported that the URP wing of the ruling Jubilee had raised last-minute objections over the hiving off of Irrigation from the Agriculture ministry, whose Cabinet Secretary, Felix Koskei, is suspended over corruption allegations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated Mr Wamalwa, a former Justice minister, on April 17 but it was not until June 10 that the National Assembly approved his appointment. He was sworn in on Thursday after almost a month in limbo.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich in the 2015/2016 budget allocated Sh15 billion for irrigation, increasing stakes for a department that has for years remained underfunded.

The Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Scheme, a flagship Jubilee project, is by far the most ambitious with a proposed acreage of one million and at a cost of Sh400 billion — but its viability has since been disputed.

The former Saboti MP told the parliamentary committee vetting him last month that if appointed, he would set up a task force to unlock the bottlenecks that have delayed the implementation of the Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme.

But it appears he may not be given that opportunity just yet.

A letter by Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua addressed to Mr Wamalwa and dated June 30 lists the parastatals and functions that fall under the new ministry, but leaves out the National Irrigation Board.

“Following the decision by the government to create a new ministry to be in charge of Water Development and Irrigation, and your consequent appointment by the President as the cabinet secretary for the new ministry, it has been found necessary to communicate the mandate of the ministry to you,” Mr Kinyua writes.

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He advises the minister that his purview will cover areas such as water resource management policy, water and sewerage services management policy, waste water and treatment and disposal policy as well as water catchment area conservation, control and protection.

He has also been tasked to lead the restoration of strategic water towers like the Mau Forest, which is a political hot potato.

Other functions are water quality and pollution control, sanitation management, dam construction schemes management, flood control and land reclamation and management of public water schemes and community water projects.

It is not clear why the giant Athi Water and Services Board is no listed among the bodies under the ministry.

Regional development, which also has roles relevant to Mr Wamalwa’s ministry, has also been retained in the Devolution and Planning ministry.

Mr Wamalwa’s ministry could lose further clout once the Water Bill, that seeks to transfer most of his work to county governments, is passed.

Yesterday, Mr Wamalwa downplayed the issue, saying that the scope of his ministry was still not clear.

“The handover will be next week and that is when we will know the clear mandate of the ministry,” Mr Wamalwa told the Sunday Nation.

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