A parliamentary committee has ordered the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife to stop the completion and construction of the multi-billion Ronald Ngala Utalii college until a probe it has initiated is finalized.
The National Assembly Departmental committee on Tourism and Wildlife wants the National Treasury to provide a clear roadmap on how it will finance the project as well as clear the pending bills which include penalties arising from delayed payment and lack of funding on time.
The first phase of the project, funded by the State through the Tourism Fund, includes administration and tuition blocks, hostels, staff quarters, and a dining hall.
The Tourism Fund is seeking Ksh3.3 billion shillings to complete the construction of the facility which includes clearing pending works of Ksh1.2 billion, operation of the project (furniture sh. 215 million shillings and Services Ksh433 million shillings) and pending bill of sh. 1.5 billion shillings.
The project which started as a Vision 2030 project was earmarked to be completed in 2018 at 4.9 billion shillings but is now scheduled to consume up to 11 billion shillings once completed, as of February 2023 and is 77.74 per cent complete.
Addressing a press conference on Monday after touring the facility accompanied by Tourism Principal Secretary John Ololtuaa and officials of Tourism Fund, Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki, who chairs the committee, said the national government must make up its mind on whether the project, remains stalled and continues to accrue interest and penalties, or money is allocated to complete the project.
Mbiuki directed the ministry not to allocate any monies for purposes of its completion or settling pending bills as well as penalties, until such a time the committee is seized with the matter, makes a report to be tabled in parliament proposing a funding formula, and a report on the implementation of the project.
“So, for the time being, don’t dare appropriate or allocate any amount to this project, not until, we have a serious discussion with President William Ruto’s administration to agree on a way forward. It is also alluded that Tourism CS Peninah Malonza is on fire for for a lucrative offer which she gave to MPs amounting to Sh15 million. She had to quickly mobilize through allies in the ministry and her loyal friends to raise the handsome package which cooled the nerves of the irate MPs,”
A source within the parliament group said that the ministry has used a lot of money that cannot be accounted for and now wants President William Ruto to either sack the CS or make changes in the ministry before it is too late.
The irate MPs also wants tourism fund CEO David Mwangi thoroughly investigated and kicked out of the institution for allegedly looting and running the institution as his own home.
“Let pending bills stay as they are but don’t touch even a coin within the sector, but the other campaigns within the tourism sector can proceed as scheduled, but as Ronald Ngala Utalii college, allow us almost two weeks or one month as we work on the rescue program,” he said, adding that his committee will also be in serious consultation with the ministry.
The Maara legislator lamented that it was unfair for the National Treasury not to finance the institution, which will complement the Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi, offer maritime courses as well as contribute to the promotion of tourism.
“We don’t want the project to be left to the Tourism Fund and Tourism Promotion Fund because they cannot raise the monies owned to the contractor, consultants, and charges as well penalties that have already been accrued due to defaulting by the state,” he held.
According to Mbiuki, the ministry of tourism and its state agencies cannot be left to finance the remainder because they have other obligations to meet like allocating resources to Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Kenyatta Utalii College among others.
He said his committee will be engaging the National Treasury to ensure that the project is allocated monies for its completion.
“We want the National Treasury to come and commit to allocating funds to this project because in the supplementary budget, there was zero allocation and in the Budget Policy Statement, the allocation is still nil, once monies are allocated it will supplement what you (ministry) have already assigned to the project,” he held.
Tourism Principal Secretary John Ololtuaa disagreed with the committee’s decision asking it reconsiders its decision to stall the project as money has already been put into it saying the only solution is to complete it.
“I think the objective should be one. How it should be completed as well as thinking ways of raising money for the project especially if there is a way stakeholders can all together reach out to the National Treasury to also either put it as an emergency to finish the project once and for all,” said Ololtuaa.
While agreeing on the project to be stalled, Nominated MP Abubakar Talib Ahmed, who is a member of the committee said there ought to be serious interrogation by the committee as the project had all characteristics of a white elephant.
“This is a white elephant. The committee should have a serious consultation interrogation of the project, as you advised Kenya Tourism Board and Tourism Fund not to put a single shilling into the project until we get to the bottom of it,” said Abubakar.
Other committee members include Wanjiku John Njuguna (Kiambaa), Kilel Richard (Bomet East), Ruku Geoffrey Kiringa (Mbeere South), Chebor Paul Kibet (Rongai), Shake Mbogho Peter (Voi), Mugabe Innocent Maino (Likuyani), Abdi Khamis Chome (Voi), Obo Ruweida Mohamed (Lamu East), and Bedzimba Rashid Juma (Kisauni).
The committee is on a five-day coast region inspection visit to flagship projects with the Ministry of Wildlife, Tourism, and Heritage, its departments, and agencies under its purview.