Members of the Western Region Development Implementation and Coordination Committee have expressed dissatisfaction at the delay in the implementation of the Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project.
The Committee that was chaired by Nyanza Regional Commissioner James Kianda Thursday was furious after they learnt that the government had to pay an extra Sh43 million to the contractor, due to delay in compensating land owners in a bid to pave way for construction works.
Kianda challenged the engineer in charge of the project to explain how long the engagement with the said land owners will take arguing that the extra cost could not have been incurred, had they worked closely with the National Government Administration Officers.
“The issue can create a lot of problems,” he said, adding that some of the issues can be handled by the Ministry of lands directly instead of the National Lands Commission (NLC).
At the same time, he stated that delayed payments to NLC should not be an issue pointing out that the commission was paid Sh 450 million to compensate land owners in 2017.
“The project is very much behind schedule yet the NLC was given the funds three years ago,” he said, while challenging the commissioners to give the committee a time frame within which they are planning to address the compensation issues.
The Regional Commissioner noted with concern that the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) had failed to liaise with the National Government Administration Officers yet they are the only entity that can help surveyors and land adjudicators to fast rack land issues affecting the implementation of the project.
“It is very unfortunate that the government will pay an extra Sh43 million for something that was to be done by a multi-agency team,” he said, adding that those responsible for the delays will carry their own cross.
Siaya County Commissioner Michael Tialal argued that chiefs were best placed to deal with the land succession issues that are delaying the project yet NIA has been avoiding them.
“Chiefs can easily convince land owners to allow the project to proceed as they await compensation,” said Tialal.
The committee recommended that a team of 10 surveyors and land adjudicators should be engaged to ensure that the land issues are addressed within one month.
The mega irrigation project that covers both Busia and Siaya Counties has been delayed by around 20 months.
Kianda assured the contractor that compensation issues will be cleared within one month and asked him to ensure that works are completed within the stipulated time frame.
Busia County National Land Commission Officer Charles Rading and Bunyala Irrigation Scheme Manager Edwin Manyonge blamed the project delays on land issues ranging from succession, survey, adjudication and delays in gazettement of National Land Commissioners.
However, the committee members said that most of the challenges could easily be handled through national government officers on the ground.
The Sh5.3 billion project is expected to increase acreage under irrigation from 2,000 acres currently to 10,000 acres to boost food security. Of this, 5,000 acres is expected to be under high value crops and the other 5,000 acres under rice and food crops to benefit 12,000 households.
By Salome Alwanda