The cost of building new roads has breached earlier limits set by the government, dealing a blow to concerted efforts to rein in unscrupulous contractors.
Infrastructure and Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia warned in 2016 that road building firms that had quoted bids of up to Sh300 million per kilometre under the State’s annuity programme would have to do with prices of between Sh90 million and Sh100 million.
And last year, the government said it had managed to achieve its own set limits, which would see a kilometre of a high tarmac road cost about Sh80 million down from Sh140 million, while a rural road costs about Sh35 million down from Sh70 million.
But an assessment by Nation of ongoing road projects across the country shows a majority of the crucial infrastructural projects have breached the ideal cost ceilings, raising concerns on why the costs have shot up, and whether the taxpayers can afford it.
A spot check by Nation shows several key roads under the various classifications have been built at a cost above the set caps in what has seen taxpayers dig deeper into their pockets.
As at last year, some 30 roads with a cumulative length of 1,547.6 kilometres were under construction at a total cost of Sh103.2 billion, according to the Economic Survey 2018.
They include the 192 kilometre Kibwezi-Mutomo-Kitui road being put up at a cost of Sh18.4 billion, which translates to Sh95.9 million per kilometre.
There is also the 19.6 kilometre Miritini — Mwache Kipevu Link Road being built at a cost of Sh12.6 billion, representing Sh64.7 million per kilometre.
The 135 kilometre Garsen-Lamu-Witu road is being built at a cost of Sh10.8 billion, which means each kilometre will use Sh80.5 million of the taxpayers’ money.
The 32 kilometre Eldoret Bypass is being constructed at a cost of Sh5 billion, which translates to Sh158.7 million per kilometre.
The 47 kilometre Uplands Githunguri road is being built at a cost of Sh3.98 billion, meaning taxpayers have forked out Sh84.9 million per kilometre.
The 4.4 kilometre Karen road is being built at a cost of Sh585.9 million, representing Sh133.2 million per kilometre.
The 20 kilometre Athi — River Machakos turn off is being built at a cost of Sh5.28 billion, Sh264.4 million per kilometre.
The 13 kilometre Nairobi Outer Ring Road Improvement project set back taxpayers Sh7.3 billion on paper, translating to Sh568.9 million per kilometre.
The United States and Kenya have also agreed to build a 473 kilometre superhighway from Nairobi to Mombasa at a cost of Sh300 billion, meaning each kilometre would set back taxpayers Sh634.2 million.
On Wednesday, Mr Macharia maintained that the cost of some 150 ongoing road projects across the country is well within limits.
Mr Macharia insisted for instance that the government had capped the cost of all rural roads at Sh40 million per kilometre, adding that the ministry is striving to ensure contractors are honouring this.
The CS said the cost of other key highways had been set to commensurate with demands of the designs of each road.
Mr Macharia argued that meticulous road designs had in some cases led to higher costs for some key roads.
“We consider some roads like Outer Ring as a bridge and not just a road,” he said in an interview.
However, some experts linked what is emerging to be high costs of building a road per kilometre in recent years to possible inflation of prices.
“We cannot overrule corruption whether in overpricing of land compensation or overestimating of quantities of design with the aim of embezzlement of funds,” Truckers Association of Kenya Secretary-General Kennedy Karisa said.
“Politicians may influence overestimating or overbudgeting in order to put allowances for kickbacks.”
KPMG’s Head of Infrastructure Hub for East Africa James Woodward, however, argued that the alternative public private partnership (PPP) model of building new roads is costlier compared to the EPC model adopted by Kenya when constructing the Sh32 billion 50 kilometre Thika Road.
“Thika Superhighway was built on an EPC model and not PPP, where contractors stay on board for about 25 years to maintain the road,” he said.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.