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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 14 September 2014


A powerful well-connected cartel with the full backing of political power brokers has paralysed the operations of the National Irrigation Board at a time when the government is burning the midnight oil to bridge food security in the country.

The cartel, whose core aim is to control multi-billion irrigation tenders is so powerful that it is calling the shots not only in procurement, but on staff placements in the well funded parastatal.
It is understood that the cartel is determined to have its way, in view of the fact that it enjoys patronage from key political backers within the TNA fraternity.

And with the retirement of general manager at NIB, Daniel Barasa imminent, powerful power brokers have lined up individuals within the organisation to succeed him.
The idea is that once one of those preferred individuals takes over, they will easily control NIB’s billions said to be close to Sh100 billion this financial year alone.

So determined is the cartel to have its way that it has routinely refused to take orders from the principal Secretary at Kilimo House, Felix Koskei, preferring instead to deal with political power brokers based at the Office of the President and a senior political operative at State House.

It is understood that NIB is the only parastatal within the larger Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock ministry where reforms are yet to take place. This is despite the fact that irrigation is a key plank to the Jubilee and URP manifestos as pledged during the electioneering period.

The league is composed of Gitonga Mugambi, director of planning and research who is being fronted by MP Kareke Mbiuki on the behest of a senior minister, a senior George Odede who is a former ally of Engineer Raila, now inherited by a powerful State House operative from the Rift Valley, and Engineer Kosgei, a protégé of former powerful minister Franklin Bett also a senior engineer at NIB.

 So determined is the cartel that they are even pushing for the mutilation of the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries ministry to create more manageable scions. Ironically, political pressure is being used as the carrot to have the ministry watered down as was the case during the days of the amorphous coalition government.

The latest cold war, though clearly indiscernible to ordinary members of the coalition is eating into the coalition parties as haggling for projects and key contracts intensifies.
So vicious is the economic show down, that it may precipitate renaming and mutilation of some ministries in a bid to tame a clique within the URP of the coalition who are increasingly threatening the economic status quo.

Not too long ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta reshuffled various principal secretaries as he sought to get a firmer grip on government apparatus.

But even before the president’s bold move to enhance service delivery could be felt, a clique within the TNA have hatched a scheme to have the agriculture, irrigation  and livestock , in the department of state for agriculture split into three scions.

Those espousing thin school of thought argue that during the President Kibaki era, the larger agriculture docket as constituted today boasted of three different departments as elucidated above.

Analysts, however, view this as a ploy to transfer the irrigation docket to the Devolution ministry of the powerful Devolution and Planning secretary Anne Waiguru, a close ally of the president.
Whereas this may be on paper, it looks like a move geared towards enhancing the decision and if it succeeds; it will be aimed towards ensuring that the 1 million hectares to be put under irrigation is controlled by members of the Mount Kenya Mafia that operated with impunity during the President Kibaki era.

It is this same cartel that took advantage of Kibaki’s earlier days in power that was hampered by a debilitating stroke to cause division in the original Narc that have now regrouped and are now trying to meddle up the ruling coalition to their advantage.

Recently, the cabinet secretary for agriculture Felix Koskei announced that the government would launch the multi-billion Galana-Kuala Irrigatrion Scheme at a cost of Sh14.5 billion
Later, while on a tour of the Yatta Irrigation Canal, DP William Ruto is said to have announced that other irrigation projects aimed at enhancing food security will be initiated by the government in a bid to enhance food security.

The government, according to DP Ruto wants to ensure tales of hunger pangs that have dominated headlines since independence are a thing of the past.
And since the Jubilee coalition has little time for brokers masquerading as philanthropists, it wants to ensure its irrigation pet projects are undertaken in record time.

The irrigation projects brokers had hoped that The Hague cases hovering over the heads of DP Ruto and President Uhuru will act as a distraction to allow them entrench themselves as they did to Kibaki in 2002.

Initially, Uhuru was able to keep the brokers and bay, but they are now dangling the carrot of a second term in office in a bid to convince the president that he needs a safe pair of businessmen to oil his campaign and provide ‘important and unfiltered’ information mainly collected from bars, church weddings and funerals.

They are said to have approached a senior cabinet secretary to lobby for the irrigation department to be devolved back to the Office of the President where influence peddlers loom large.
The only challenge is that the presidency is by all means and purposes speaking in one voice on matters that may rock the coalition at a time when the reloaded Cord Principal Raila Odinga and his lieutenants are waiting at the wings to collect any political freebies spilled by the Jubilee URP coalition.

It is also said in the corridors of power that CS Koskei enjoys the confidence of the presidency because of his ability to make bold and critical decisions. But he may soon find his waterloo as brokers continue to circle his ministry.

Since assuming office, he has managed to streamline the ministry, but has been seen as high handed in some quarters.
Recently, he sent packing the Kephis board together with their HCDA counterparts after they failed to guarantee the quality of Kenyan exports to the EU.

He also recently consolidated 14 ministry of Agriculture parastatals into one and appointed Alfred Busolo as the acting director general. This was after the gazettement of the Affa Act.
Other than CS Waiguru who has had the tenacity to take hard decision that bear of service delivery, few other CS’s have been as bold.

When Waiguru realised that the former NYS director Kiplimo Rugut was new wine in old skins, he promoted the former and hired a brand new manager. The move caused jitters in the Kalenjin nation and the iron lady was almost impeached by parliament. Intervention by DP Ruto saved the day for her as Mithika Linturi bayed for her blood.

She has also initiated an ambitious project on cleaning the stinking government payroll, after billions of shillings went to the accounts of ghost workers, some of then more that 15 dead.