By Walter Menya
Even in these hard times, and in what could be a mega scandal in the making, the government proposes to spend Sh37,500 per bar soap to be distributed to Kenyans who will be affected by El NiÃ±o rains.
In the El NiÃ±o response strategy, a copy of which the Sunday Nation has obtained, the government plans to spend Sh37.5 million to buy 1,000 bar soaps â€“ which comes to Sh37,500 per piece.
Meanwhile, the retail price of a bar soap in most supermarkets in Kenya is not more than Sh250 on the extreme.
The cost of the bar soaps rekindles the memories of the Sh109,000 for the â€œnon-carcinogenicâ€ wheelbarrows that Bungoma County Government had purchased.
In the same budget proposals, the government will be paying National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) Sh50 million in â€œagency and management feesâ€ for unspecified tasks, raising questions why the government should pay its own department for public work.
The El NiÃ±o Response Plan will be implemented by a multi-sectoral taskforce led by the National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC) under the ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
â€œRelevant national State organs and the county governments held a meeting on Tuesday September 8, 2015, under the chairmanship of the Deputy President (William Ruto) in order to develop strategies to minimise the negative effects of the phenomenon while at the same time maximising on the positive aspects of the abundant rains.
â€œA subsequent meeting chaired by the Deputy President was held on September 25, 2015, between the national government, county governments, development partners and the private sector. The purpose of the meetings (was) to forge a common approach to addressing the phenomenon,â€ the government plan states.
The El NiÃ±o forecasts are that most parts of the country will be expected to experience flooding, or ought to have started experiencing highly enhanced or enhanced rainfall.
The rains were to be experienced from October 2015 to January 2016.
â€œThis flooding will especially manifest in the low lying areas of Nyando river basin, Western Kenya, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera, and the lower parts of Tana, Kilifi, Kwale and the coastal region.
Also affected by heavy flooding will be urban centres namely Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Narok,â€ the plan states.
Another expenditure that raises eyebrows is Sh50 million the government has set aside to â€œcarry out sensitisation on disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures to fishers and fish farmersâ€ in 30 counties.
And even though the Kenya National Examinations Council ought to have factored in the cost of transporting national examination materials ahead of the exams that started on Monday, October 12, the El NiÃ±o strategy plan shows that the national and county governments expect to spend Sh35 million for transportation of national examinations.
This in addition to a Sh5 million allocation for â€œprovision of psycho-social support to affected learners, teachers and parents/communities for acceptance and recovery.â€
The outrageous allocations come at a time the government is experiencing a serious cash crunch that the National Treasury admitted, saying they are â€œchallenges facing the global economy including Kenyaâ€™s.â€
The biting cash crunch has occasioned a delay in paying civil servants while counties have openly raised concerns that the national government had not released funds to them.
Similarly, funds for free primary and subsidised secondary education have also delayed while the government also disregarded a court order to pay teachers a salary raise of between 50 and 60 per cent.
Attempts by the Sunday Nation to get a comment from the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government were futile and the spokesman, who had promised to get back to us in â€œ30 minutesâ€, did not subsequently answer his phone.
In the El NiÃ±o response strategy, the government also says that it will spend Sh1.1 billion in post-El NiÃ±o reconstruction of â€œ7,000 classrooms expected to be destroyedâ€ at a unit cost of Sh250,000.
Meanwhile, the cost of transporting food and non-food items to 40 counties across the country between October and January 2016 is expected to be Sh200 million.
In the midst of the outrageous costs, the government will have to find Sh3.5 billion to plug a hole in the budget and successfully implement the El NiÃ±o response strategy.
According to the strategy, the total cost is expected to be Sh16.3 billion while the resources so far available are Sh12.8 billion.
Of the funds available, the national government has contributed Sh3.6 billion, while Sh6.6 billion has been raised by county governments and a further Sh2.7 billion from unnamed development partners.
According to the plan whose implementation ought to have started, the largest budget requirement is for the agriculture sector of Sh5.3 billion.