About 500 Wajir South residents have petitioned the World Bank to cancel a Sh2.2 billion project in the constituency, claiming it is being overseen by MP Mohamud Sheikh Mohammed Omar and that this raises a conflict of interest.
The residents claim the project, which aims to economically and socially empower local communities that host refugees, was awarded to Waso Resource Development Agency (Warda) for Sh160 million to oversee the World Bank billions.
They allege that the MP founded the agency and that it is currently being managed by his brother and relatives.
The money is part of Sh10 billion shared among three refugee-hosting communities in Garissa, Wajir and Turkana.
It is being administered by the Office of the President under the Kenya Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project.
The fund aims at enhancing access to basic social services, expanding economic opportunities and ensuring environmental management for communities hosting refugees in the targeted counties.
The residents, in their petition sent to World Bank headquarters in Washington DC, US, state that there was a conflict of interest in the award of the contract.
“The current Member of Parliament is the founder, owner, and patron of Warda and used the positive public exposure he gained whilst active in his organisation to launch his career in politics,” they stated.
“While the current MP was active in the FP’s operations, he exhibited favouritism by implementing projects funded from Australia in areas only dominated by his sub-clan, the Mohamed Zubeir or areas serving his political interests. This favouritism was instrumental in elevating his profile and securing him the Wajir South parliamentary seat.”
But speaking to the Nation, Mr Omar refuted the claims in the petition.
“You can go check with the NGOs Coordination Board and you will find those are lies. I do not own the NGO; if anything there are many Sheikh Omars in this country. An NGO does not belong to an individual; it is an organisation. The project has not even commenced fully on the ground,” he said.
The petition is copied to World Bank Kenya office, Office of the President and Head of Public Service.
The petitioners add that due to the volatile nature of historical and resource-based conflicts in Wajir South, communities in the area have a marked preference for their organisations or non-partisan ones that are sensitive to clan and sub-clan dynamics.
World Bank’s Grievance Redress Service (GRS), that deals with such complaints, replied to the petition on November 14 2019.
“The issues you bring to our attention relates to issues of fraud or corruption and we will, therefore, forward the complaint to the Integrity Vice Presidency of the World Bank for its review,” stated the GRS team.
The petitioners said there is evidence of bias on the ground.
“Resource distribution is skewed towards areas that are outside the target communities hosting refugees and that do not fit into the UNHCR definition of a community.
“Banane Ward is most affected area due to its proximity to refugee camps yet it’s the least area likely to benefit from this project,” they stated.