Spotlight on the promised power to read, click, trade

All 22,364 public primary schools should have been connected to the national grid by midnight Sunday.

Sunday January 31 2016

Children enjoy themselves as various artistes perform in Kabarnet, Baringo County, during the Madaraka Day celebrations on June 1, 2015. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Children enjoy themselves as various artistes perform in Kabarnet, Baringo County, during the Madaraka Day celebrations on June 1, 2015. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By EDWIN OKOTH
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Three power-related timelines are expected to send high voltage pressure on State authorities as the government seeks to stand by its ambitious goals this year.

By midnight tSunday, all the over 22,364 public primary schools are expected to be connected to the national grid, a goal the government says it is keen on meeting.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter said the plan had received enough funding to meet the timelines set and that those tasked with the responsibility will be on the spot should the deadline be missed.

“The funds had already been made available and there is no constraint for it to be done; so as far as I am concerned, it will be completed by this Sunday. We have a meeting on Monday to confirm that, and we are not just talking about connection but the actual switching on. It will be done,” Mr Keter said at his Nyayo House office in Nairobi on Thursday.

Information available on the Rural Electrification Authority website shows that 1,972 schools were yet to be connected to power by September last year, with some in need of cabling and wiring while others were still under construction.

The authority tasked to spearhead the exercise, which the government bets on to realise one of its campaign flagship plans — the ICT in schools programme — will receive more heat as the ultimatum expires today.

Asked what would happen to those responsible for the public schools’ lighting plan were it not to materialise, the Energy CS just fell short of issuing a sacking ultimatum.

“Well, let’s cross that bridge when we get there because, unless somebody is not doing their job, I don’t see the justification for not having powered these schools within the timelines. These are promises we made to Kenyans and we cannot go back on them,” Mr Keter said.

Monday's meeting may place REA chief executive Ng’ang’a Munyu and chairman Simon Gicharu on the spot as the new Energy Minister fights to keep his word, and with the public watching to see how the flagship plan unfolds.

Another key State authority in the spotlight will be the Kenya Power and Lighting Company.

The utility provider is handling two plans — to connect an additional one million households to the grid by June this year and to light up several streets and centres in 52 towns across the nation.

Kenya Power chief executive Ben Chumo is also expected in Monday's meeting, with the street lighting plan only one year from its completion date.

POLITICAL HOT POTATO

Our emails to seek the firm’s projection on this did not receive answers, as the project slowly morphed into a political hot potato over its source of funding.

A few days after President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the expanded street lighting programme in Mombasa, Cord leader Raila Odinga criticised him for taking credit for the project, arguing that it was a World Bank-funded programme.

Mr Keter chose to indirectly respond to Mr Odinga, saying all the Sh7 billion needed for the National Public Lighting Programme would come from the Exchequer, and not from any donor.

“This project, contrary to bizarre claims and propaganda by some sources, is fully funded by the National Government. There is no single donor involved. County governments will bear the costs of managing the projects, including bills,” Mr Keter said.

The street lighting plan targets town centers and county roads in 52 regions across the nation.

The plan initiated in Nairobi will now move to Kiambu, Kajiado, Kisii, Nakuru, Machakos, Mandera, Wajir, Laikipia, Bomet, Kisumu, Migori and other towns.

Kenya Power is at the centre of the project, together with the Rural Electrification Authority, Kenya National Highway Authority and Kenya Urban Roads Authority.