Minister shelves new road projects over Sh910b debt

Saturday, January 28th, 2023 05:20 | By
Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen. PHOTO/Courtesy
Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen. PHOTO/Courtesy

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has warned it will cease bankrolling new infrastructure projects until a Sh910 billion debt owed to contractors and suppliers is settled.

Highlighting the state of affairs on his docket, Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen further noted that his ministry requires Sh600 billion every year to settle pending bills alone.

He said the debt accumulated by the previous administration must be sorted out first before new projects commence.

“You will be seeing the government bringing the contractors back, some of them have been auctioned because they are unable to pay their debts and the government will revive their businesses,” Murkomen stated while in Nakuru.

Despite the tough austerity measures being adopted by the government, the Transport CS said his Ministry is working with the National Treasury and the Cabinet to ensure they raise the money to build infrastructure worth close to Sh1 trillion.

Easing accessibility

 Former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration banked on key infrastructural projects to transform the face of Kenya’s terrain, as well as easing accessibility countrywide, but it came at a cost.

It gobbled up hundreds of billions of shillings most of which is believed to have benefitted a few individuals through kickbacks and bribes. Some of the key projects done under the Kenyatta era include the magnificent Expressway, which cost the taxpayers a staggering Sh87. 9 billion, from the Sh65. 2 billion initial budget estimate provided by the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha).

The 27-kilometre elevated highway stands out as one of the most prominent projects undertaken during the previous regime and connects Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the Westlands area.

Launched, initially on a trial basis in May 2022, the highway, according to the government, was put up to ease congestion and beat traffic along the busy Mombasa Road. The highway was to be fully financed by the China Communications Construction Company, the parent firm of China Road and Bridge Corporation.

Lamu Port started operations in 2021, a moment termed a milestone for the East African region, cost the government an estimated Sh2.5 trillion to construct – designed to serve as an alternative to the Mombasa Port which serves the extensive region of Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and DRC.

Bigger ships

The project is part of Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor project (Lappset), conceived during the reign of the late President Mwai Kibaki. It connects northern Kenya to the middle belt of Africa. With a depth of 18 metres compared to 12.5 metres for Mombasa Port, Lamu Port is expected to attract bigger ships and hence, enjoy economies of scale.

Another one is the Standard Gauge Railway which is one of the flagship projects of the Jubilee government. The 578.8 km line was launched in 2017 and connects the Port of Mombasa to Nairobi, with an extension to Suswa in Narok County.

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