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Affordable cooking gas plan gains steam in Kenya

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The government has tweaked the concept of the multibillion project that aims at providing poor households throughout the country with affordable cooking gas.

The Mwananchi Gas project, which is meant to safeguard the poor from respiratory diseases caused by the use of firewood for cooking and to contain the rampant destruction of forests, will now be revamped and digitized.

Four million households are targeted with the ‘Gas Yetu’ six-kilogram cylinders fitted with burners and grills at a subsidised cost of Sh2,000.

On Thursday, Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes told a committee of the Senate that the concept has changed to metered gas cylinders with a two-burner tabletop cooker that will be paid for through a smart payment system called PayGo.

“This is a good project that should be supported. Cooking gas is clean and safer and can significantly help the country slow down on de-afforestation,” the CS told the committee when he appeared before it Thursday.

Under this new concept, the ministry is finalising the procurement of the initial 50,000 6kg cylinders, 40,000 smart metres, 40,000 hose pipes and 40,000 two-burner tabletop cookers.

The CS said the National Oil Corporation (NOC) is mandated to fill and distribute the cylinders to the public through appointed distributors who in turn will appoint retailers from the category of women youths and PLWDs.

While members of the committee welcomed the new concept they unanimously rejected the involvement of the ministry in in its implementation arguing it will be counter-productive and will slow down the project.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina led the onslaught against the ministry saying it had messed up the initial project whose implementation was affected by poor quality cylinders it procured.

In 2017, the National Treasury allocated Sh2.2 billion for the three year-programme (2017-2019) and later increased the amount by more than Sh700 million through a supplementary budget, pushing the total funding to Sh3.1 billion.

The initial tender for the purchase of 357,000 gas cylinders was valued at Sh778 million.

The beneficiaries identified through the provincial administration were to get the gas through buying a cylinder, grill and burner at a subsidised rate of Sh2,000.

They would then refill them at a cost of Sh840.

However, fraudulent suppliers took advantage and delivered leaking cylinders and failing to fill their tender quantum.

“It was the Ministry’s fault and there is no way they can implement this project. The model should be changed to allow NOC to procure” Mr ole Kina told the meeting conducted through a virtual Zoom system.

“The Ministry should get the money and hand it over to NOC to solely implement because it is the one with the capacity to execute. The Ministry can send one of its officers to oversee the implementation.”

Taita Taveta senator Jones Mwaruma said the Ministry could not be trusted to deliver after it undermined the implementation to NOC and wondered why the cylinders were taken in by the Ministry before inspection.

Mr Munyes agreed with the observations noting that the faulty cylinders had damaged the credibility of the project, adding that the Ministry will mandate the agency to solely implement the project.

To succeed, the CS asked Parliament to review the proposal to levy 14 per cent VAT on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) because if adopted could undermine the project.

“If the proposal is implemented we shall not achieve what we want because It will discourage the use of gas in poor households.”

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