Kenya’s grand plan to provide poor households with cheap cooking gas has collapsed due to allegations of corruption, lack of funds, and supply of defective cylinders that pose safety risks to users.
The multimillion-dollar Mwananchi Gas project was meant to safeguard the poor from respiratory diseases caused by the use of firewood for cooking and to contain the rampant destruction of forests.
It would have seen millions of households receive subsidised cooking gas cylinders at a cost of $20.
Now Petroleum and Mining Ministry Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau says the plan has been shelved due to a cash crunch as the government grapples with budget deficits and a disgruntled overtaxed population.
“We cancelled the Mwananchi Gas cylinder tenders because of budget issues. The private sector has now identified it as an opportunity and has taken it over,” Mr Kamau told The EastAfrican.
Four million households were targeted with the Gas Yetu six-kilogramme cylinders fitted with burners and grills.
The beneficiaries would refill them at a cost of Ksh840 ($8.4) per cylinder.
Many poor households cannot afford the 6kg cooking gas cylinders at market rates of about $36 each, and the government’s plan to provide subsidised cylinders was seen as a ray of hope for the families.
About 80 per cent of Kenya’s households rely on charcoal and kerosene for cooking and the government had planned to enhance liquefied Petroleum gas penetration from approximately 10 per cent currently to 70 per cent within the next three years.
Meanwhile, Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti has ordered a probe into how fraudulent suppliers delivered 67,251 faulty gas cylinders in the project.
Mr Kinoti said that he would establish how the Petroleum Ministry and the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (Nock) authorised the contract given to a consortium led by Allied East Africa Ltd.
“We will initiate a probe. We cannot allow a programme that is funded by taxpayers to put Kenyan citizens at risk,” said Mr Kinoti.
Last year, the National Treasury allocated Ksh2.2 billion ($22 million) for the three year-programme (2017-2019) and later increased the amount by more than Ksh700 million ($7 million) through a supplementary budget, pushing the total funding to Ksh3.1 billion ($31 million).
The initial tender for the purchase of 357,000 gas cylinders was valued at Ksh778 million ($7.78 million).
The EastAfrican has learnt that the Petroleum Ministry cancelled two other tenders to procure close to 700,000 cylinders, citing lack of funds.
One of the tenders in which the government had planned to purchase 375,000 gas cylinders was cancelled in December last year, and another of 300,000 cylinders was cancelled early this month.
Fraudulent suppliers delivered leaking cylinders and failing to fill their tender quantum.
“Not all suppliers have delivered all the cylinders as per the tender award,” said Norris Ongalo, Nock’s manager in-charge of special projects.
The government has since cancelled the contract for Allied East Africa and ordered the firm to pay over Ksh40 million ($400,000) in compensation, according to confidential documents seen by The EastAfrican.