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Sh3.3 billion for 10km barbed wire fence on Kenya-Somalia border

Thursday March 14, 2019

 A security fence project along the Kenya-Somali border conceived to keep out al-shaabab militants turned into a cash cow, gobbling over Sh3.3 billion for a 10 kilometre stretch, according to a report tabled in the National Assembly.

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The revelations, which have outraged lawmakers, tells a tale of impunity, where people charged with state resources splashed Sh300 million per kilometer on the security barrier consisting of chain link, razor barbed wire and concrete poles.

The idea to build the wall conceived in the wake of constant attacks by the militants was approved by the National Security Advisory committee (NSAC) in 2015 and was undertaken by the ministry of Interior and Coordination of National government.

It was later transferred to the Ministry of Defence following a presidential directive.

“Before handing over of the project to the Ministry of Defence, the ministry had expended a total of Sh3, 380, 353, 960.52 as tabulated below,” states the report.

It then gives a breakdown of the spending: Sh887 million (2014-2015 financial year), Sh306 million (2015-2016 financial year) and Sh578 million (2016-2017 financial year). This however adds up to Sh1.7 billion and it is unclear whether some expenditure has been skipped.

However, in another section, the report states Sh 1.5 billion was reallocated to the ministry of Defence after the transfer of the project.

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The idea to build the wall, conceived in the wake of constant attacks by the terrorists, was approved by the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) in 2015.

Project transferred

The project was to be undertaken by the Interior ministry, but was later transferred to the Ministry of Defence following a presidential directive.

Although the Government splashed the huge amount on the 10-kilometre stretch, construction workers from the National Youth Service (NYS) are said to have gone without pay, according to details gleaned from minutes of the report by the Defence and Foreign Relations committee.

“The wall project was established by the NSAC through a letter from Chief of Staff and Head of the Public Service addressed to the Principal Secretary, State Department of Interior,” reads the report.

Initial estimates by the Ministry of Defence put the total cost of the project at Sh8 billion. The money was to be spent on three sections of the project covering 700km.

The three sections are Northern (Sh3.5 billion) covering 160km, Southern (Sh2.6 billion) covering 105km, and Central (Sh1.8 billion) with 445km.

The infrastructural works included border fence installation, border patrol roads and technology enhanced surveillance.

According to a table attached to the report, the Ministry of Interior handed over the project to the Ministry of Defence when it had already expended Sh3.3 billion on the 10-kilometre stretch.

This money is more than that allocated the school feeding programme (Sh2 billion), establishment of a cancer institute (Sh400 million) and roll-out of universal health coverage (Sh2.5 billion) in the 2018/2019 financial year.

“By the time the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government handed over the project to the Ministry of Defence, 10km of the wall had already been done,” the report stated.

Lawmakers claimed some shadowy characters used the Al-Shaabab threat to line their pockets by undertaking a project that was conceived to steal money from the public.

Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale (Garissa Town) demanded that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) initiates a probe to nab those behind the scandal.

“I have no problem with the wall, but you cannot use the threat of insecurity to steal and plunder money. The aim of this project was to eat money,” said Mr Duale, adding: “The chair of the committee must bring a recommendation to this report to say that there is no value for money and that Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and DCI must investigate.”

His Minority counterpart John Mbadi (Suba South) claimed the country was using archaic methods to deal with the insecurity threat.

“You are not going to solve this problem by building a wall. That is too mechanical. It looks like the Egyptian pyramids,” said Mr Mbadi. “It cannot work in modern Kenya. This is the 21st Century. Even American President Donald Trump thinks he can stop the Mexicans by building a wall.”

He continued: “In this country, we also think we can stop Al Shaabab by building a wall. Please go back, and come back with a proper report on the viability of the project. Why did we not bring in other partners to help us in financing the project?”

Butula MP Joseph Oyula termed the project a cash cow. “The project was misconceived. The report is giving us a story of another cash cow that was milked under the pretext of building a wall,” he said.

“This is a very long border, over 700km. We haven’t been told that someone carried out a study to know how the money would be spent,” Mr Oyula said.

Sophia Abdi (Ijara) demanded to know who approved the project. “We are discussing an illegal project that has been contracted by the Kenyan Government. We want the committee to tell us if they are the ones who approved it. How did they go to supervise a project that does not have the approval of this House? The committee should tell us how money was used,” she said.

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