Friday, June 14, 2024
NewsInefficiency in straggling irrigation projects alarms Parliament

Inefficiency in straggling irrigation projects alarms Parliament

The abrupt termination of an irrigation project in the Gurage Zone that had already used up most of its half-billion birr federal budget has raised concerns at Parliament.

The Karim Medium Irrigation project was set to be carried out by the regional administration before it was transferred to the federal government in 2021. The parliamentary standing committee overseeing irrigation works grilled officials from the Ministry of Irrigation and Lowlands this week after it came to light that the project had been shut down suddenly after utilizing 95 percent of its allotted budget.

District and zonal officials near the project site have raised doubts, citing a lack of clarity behind the decision-making process.

Aisha Mohammed (Eng.), minister of Irrigation, told MPs the project initially lacked a dedicated budget code and was funded through government support. She said efforts are underway to reclassify it as a formal project to address community demands and secure sustainable funding.

“It was supported by the Ministry and did not have its own budget code,” she said. Aisha alluded to efforts to engage with the Ministry of Finance to resume the project.

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“When the 2021 budget did not designate it as a project, it was transferred to the African Development Bank as a youth project, supported solely by the government. Due to substantial investments and community demand, there’s a request to reclassify it as a formal project, which should ensure its continuity if supported by the budget,” said the Minister.

The Megech Dam in the Amhara region is another lagging irrigation project that has been a source of controversy. It commenced in 2005 with a budget of 2.45 billion birr and a completion date in 2008. However, the dam has since been subject to no less than six design revisions, which have pushed costs to close to 6.5 billion birr.

A three-year delay in the supply of an auxiliary pump for the Rate Irrigation Dam in the South Omo Zone has also raised concerns about project management and contractor performance. Despite a 32 million birr investment, the delay in providing essential equipment has deprived farmers of the intended benefits.

MPs called for proactive measures such as rigorous quality control, efficient resource allocation, and effective project oversight, to break the pattern of delays and inefficiencies plaguing irrigation projects.

The Minister told MPs she expects to see a policy finalized this year that would serve as a crucial tool for conducting feasibility studies and validating project plans before implementation, ensuring greater accuracy and effectiveness in future irrigation work.

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