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Irrigation schemes notorious for skipping bills

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 31- The National Irrigation Board (NIB) is the greatest defaulter in paying for water across the country, according to the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA).

The authority’s chairman Francis Nyenze said the NIB water bill has accumulated to Sh1.2 billion since 2007.

He said despite being revised downwards by the authority to Sh600 million after negotiations, the board has not started paying the debt.

Speaking during the launch of the performance report of the authority, Nyenze said the WARMA is now waiting to see if the board is going to fulfill its promise of clearing the bill, after it was taken to court.

“They have just been using water, and you know we charge in bulk use. But we have negotiated with them; we have also taken them to court and they have agreed to pay but in stages, because they cannot pay all of it at once because they had not budgeted for it,” said Nyenze.

He said since 2007 all the public irrigation schemes across the country which are managed by the board have not been paying water bills despite being the highest users of water in the country.

“The bill is now Sh600 million and the problem is that it keeps on increasing but we hope they will be able to pay especially after we revised downwards, “he added.

Some of the public irrigation schemes include Bura, Hola, Mwea, Pekera, and Yala among others which are under the management of NIB.

“All these schemes have not been paying for their water and you know they use the highest amounts than any other person in Kenya. Until that is solved, then we will not be able to account for the bulk of the water usage, “said the authority’s CEO Philip Olum.

The authority’s technical manager Joseph Kinyua said it does not have exact data of how much water is used since most of the schemes do not have measuring machines which can give the correct readings of the amount of water usage.

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The authority has also complained of lack of finances and shortage of staff. It claims that out of the required approximately Sh1billion budget annually, it has been receiving less than Sh150 million every financial year.

“Last year we got Sh100 million and the remaining amount, from donors. You can see that, that gap is so big. Something needs to be done,” the CEO said.

However the Water and Irrigation Ministry said it is working on a Bill that will allow the changing of the WARMA regional branches to parastatals, so that they can get direct funding from the government.

“We will have the national body which we will be called the Water Resources Regulatory Authority and not the now called management authority. It will only be a regulator of the various water resources boards which will be parastatals across the country, “said John Rao, Director of Water and Irrigation at the ministry.

The Bill, he said, is currently waiting to go to the cabinet for approval then to parliament for enactment.

Currently 70 percent of water in the country is used for irrigation, 20 percent domestic and 10 percent on other use, according to the authority.

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