Comment
Tuesday, November 6, 2001

 

Why donors walked out on Kisumu

By SHAKEEL SHABBIR AHMED

Two recent Nation commentaries on Kisumu's dire water treatment crisis and the council's alleged inaction had a hint of mischief by some negative-minded interested parties.

I wish to make the following comments to correct this:

Effluent Pollution: It is true that the Kisat sewerage waste water treatment plant has not been working for nearly 10 years and as a result industrial effluent flows into the lake untreated. The Lake Victoria Environment Management Project (LVEMP)/World Bank project, which we initiated in September 2000, is to concentrate on treatment of waste water effluent and sewerage. The project was initially for an amount of Sh150 million. We followed the procedure and satisfied all the requirements and, as a result, LVEMP advertised the planned required works. The tender was a local tender and a number of local contractors applied. In February/March the tender was evaluated.

Meanwhile, a consultant was engaged and the intervention project was re-assessed and it was estimated that the revised increased work programme would cost Sh287 million. In April 2001, the World Bank approved the increased value of Sh287 million. We were delighted by this news but our delight was very short lived. The World Bank representative then informed us that since the value of the works was in excess of Sh250 million, it must be re-advertised internationally. Furthermore, the process would take a minimum of 24 months before any work could start.

World Bank moved the goal posts

We were devastated since all along we were told that the project would start by May/June 2001.

We also felt that the World Bank moved the goal posts at the last minute without reference to us as the beneficiaries.

We even suggested that the first phase valued at Sh150 million should start and the increased value of Sh137 million can be tendered internationally.

We argued and pleaded that the Kisat treatment was an emergency and that this should be rehabilitated immediately at the estimated cost of Sh20 million being less than 10 per cent of the value of the revised project.

The World Bank official was unmoved, however, and told us that we had no option since they required a holistic approach even if it meant that raw untreated effluent would be discharged in the lake in the meantime.

We do we understand the logic, especially since the environmental consequences of the delay are disastrous and will not be able to be reversed. We even appealed in June to the then World Bank country representative, Mr Harold Wackman, to intervene and urge the World Bank to release Sh20 million for the renovation of the Kisat treatment works as a priority bases. We have yet to hear from him.

As such, the assertion that Kisumu Municipal Council officials should have known about the Bank's conditions earlier is incorrect. This additional condition was sprung on to us at the last minute in April 2001 and without any warning.

The Jica project proposal: This proposal came in 1996 and in 1997 a feasibility study was conducted at a cost of nearly Sh200 million to identify the extent of the intervention required to rehabilitate and extend the provision of water and sewerage infrastructure to meet the needs of the residents of Kisumu.

The conditionalities of the Jica proposals were as follows:

(a) Commercialisation of the water department
(b) Proposal for capacity building
(c) Institutional building proposal
(d) provision of land for the additional development
(e) Kisumu municipality to provide 15 per cent of the project cost of Sh6 billion, that is Sh900 million
(f) Guarantee of the Government of Kenya

The Municipality of Kisumu met conditions (a) to (d) and required the Central Government to meet conditions (e) and (f).

The Jica proposal was forwarded to the Treasury over three years ago and mysteriously disappeared, only to miraculously reappear after the issue was raised in Parliament in June 2001. We were then informed that the proposal was forwarded to the Ministry of Local Government as required.

The Permanent Secretary and the Minister of Finance have since advised us that the Government cannot guarantee any loan due to IMF restrictions.

Yet the Nation editorial writer said the Jica proposal was withdrawn due to the fact that the Kisumu Municipal Council had "dithered and prevaricated for months". Again, this is not true. Much of the blame lies at the doorstep of the Treasury for not acting for nearly four years.

Three directors representing stakeholders

Kisumu is committed to improving its services, its residents and privatising the provision of water, so that it is more efficient and serves the needs of residents. We have already formed a private limited company and are in the process of implementing the transition to operational change.

In an effort to ensure transparency and stakeholder participation the water company will have three directors representing stakeholders. We have even advertised invitations to committed residents of integrity and experience to apply for these three posts.

What else can we do to prove that we are serious about changing things for the better?

        Shakeel Shabbir Ahmed, a nominated councillor, is the Mayor of Kisumu, which will be celebrating its centenary in December.