When the World Bank last year revealed in a report that cash-hungry slumlords and politicians had blocked modernisation of Nairobi’s Kibera slum for self-gain, most Kenyans expected the cartels would be unmasked, shamed and prosecuted. Except the report did not name the culprits, and no explanation was given for the omission.
Kenya’s lords of poverty who benefit from the misfortunes of others have for long remained faceless.
As President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament, he is probably aware of such dark elements on the prowl seeking to reap from projects he has lined up in his final term.
President Kenyatta is expected to centre his speech on the Big Four pillars that his government has identified as critical in achieving the country’s development goals.
Early estimates indicate trillions of shillings will be used in the rollout of the four pillars — food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare.
The smell of the cash, it appears, has already caught the nostrils of cartels.
Sources close to the goings-on told Nation a clique of cartels labelled as ‘tenderpreneurs’ are lying in wait ready to pounce through backdoor deals.
These are the same characters that have been blamed for plunder of State resources in the past. They are said to be scheming behind the scenes to profiteer from the implementation of the mega State projects.
“Over Sh2 trillion is expected to flow through the economy from construction of one million housing units by 2030 under the government’s housing pillar,” Housing Principal Secretary Charles Mwaura told Nation.
Mr Mwaura acknowledged the mammoth task before him in the realisation of the ambitious housing goal, especially in tackling the vicious land cartels that have over the years reaped billions of shillings from speculation and land grabbing.
“Cartels exist where the rule of law is not enforced and a vacuum exists. We are aware of their existence but they will not stop us,” said the PS.
Insiders now say the projects are being seen as a mouth-watering cash cow based on their large size, uniqueness and complexity.
“The mega projects have most of the features favouring corruption especially because of the sense of urgency the President wants them executed,” said a bureaucrat who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Other President’s men interviewed warned that failure to rein in the shadowy cartels and pull a plug on their nefarious schemes could derail his development agenda.
“They are vicious and scheming in every corridor of State offices. Some procurement officials in State agencies are involved in the underhand scheming ahead of the firming up of the Big Four agenda,” said another highly-placed source in government who sought anonymity.
“If they are not reined in, and they hijack the projects, the President’s plan will be derailed by procurement legal battles and counter cases arising from flawed procurement processes,” the source added.
In the recent past, State’s mega projects have turned into a cash cow for the shadowy cartels. Kenya’s public offices are littered with graft scandals. An example is the Afya House scandal, in which the Ministry of Health failed to account for Sh5 billion, prompting cuts in aid from donors.
The World Bank last year said in its report that faceless cartels had blocked the development of Kibera into a modern residential estate, robbing the economy of Sh103 billion in missed capital value for not developing the slum. The Bretton Woods institution divulged that unnamed investors were minting rent and service charge cash from the predicament of thousands of slum dwellers.