AG flags Energy ministry over funds oversight

Monday, March 4th, 2024 05:20 | By
AG flags Energy ministry over funds oversight
Auditor General Nancy Gathungu during a previous event. PHOTO/Print

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu has raised concerns over expenditures related to drilling wells in Kwale county’s nine coal blocks and the construction of biogas digesters across various counties, including Meru, Nyamira, Tharaka Nithi, Makueni, and Taita Taveta.

In her latest report for the financial year 2022/23, Gathungu expressed concerns over the lack of value for money in the conception and execution of these projects, indicating that recovering the funds already expended would be a challenge.

Regarding the contract for exploratory Coal Diamond Core Drilling Services in Kwale County, the report reveals that despite the contract being awarded in June 2015 and an advance payment of Sh 32.3 million being made, the project remains incomplete nine years later, well beyond the stipulated 18-month timeline.

“Additionally, the advance payment guarantee expired on 31 October, 2020 while the performance bond expired on 27 November,2020, before recovery of advance payment. Therefore, the recoverability of  the advance payment is in doubt,” the report says.

Contractor received money

It adds: “ln the circumstances, the recoverability of the advance payment amount of Sh32,283,960 and value for money on Sh78,255,890 incurred could not be confirmed.”

Only five out of fifty-four wells have been completed, with the contractor receiving Sh 78.3 million, representing 24 percent of the contract sum. The expiration of advance payment guarantees and performance bonds further complicates the situation, casting doubt on the recoverability of funds.

Similarly, in the construction of biogas digesters in various counties, a total of Sh 45.1 million had been disbursed as of June 30 last year.

However, Gathungu noted that no status report for the projects was provided for audit, and field verification revealed various anomalies.

Project uncertainities

Despite extensions granted to the contractor, there is uncertainty regarding the completion and quality of the projects. For instance, out of sixty biogas digesters contracted in Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties, only fifty-two had been completed, with issues such as missing billboards, cracked chambers, and malfunctioning components compromising safety and functionality.

“No billboard or plate indicating the details of the work had been put in place in any of the sites in Meru County despite a provision of Sh14,000 per billboard in the  contract. Further, four (4) expansion chamber cover slabs in Meru county had not been cast while six (6) chambers in Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Makueni and Taita Taveta counties had cracks posing safety risks to the users,” the report says.

Additionally, concerns were raised over the installation of poor-quality gas cookers in Meru and Makueni Counties, with some malfunctioning within a year of use.

In several completed biogas digesters, water traps were found to be ineffective, causing malfunction or suboptimal performance. Gas leakages and faulty pressure gauges were also identified in certain installations, further undermining their functionality.

These revelations underscore the need for enhanced oversight and accountability in project management to ensure value for money and the delivery of quality infrastructure.

Failure to address these issues not only compromises the effectiveness of public expenditure but also poses safety risks and undermines the intended socio-economic benefits for the affected communities.

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