When President Mwai Kibaki conceptualised Ronald Ngala Utalii College (RNUC), it was to be one of the best training institutions for the hospitality sector in the Coast region.
But the college has not been completed, almost 10 years after it started.
The National Development Implementation Technical Committee (NDITC), chaired by Karanja Kibicho, has blamed inadequate funds for the delay.
The government had initially budgeted Sh8 billion but allocated only Sh4.9 billion, causing the project to stall.
“This is a flagship project that was started sometime back, conceptualised in 2012 and supposed to expand our training programmes in the hospitality industry,” Dr Kibisho said.
“It has all the accompanying facilities for training in the hospitality industry paying special attention to the maritime sector. We are here to check on the level of completion.”
At completion, the facility will accommodate 1,000 students, and the first batch of 250 students will be admitted late this year or early next year.
Dr Kibicho expressed satisfaction with the pace of the project, which is 71 percent complete.
Dr Kibicho said the construction has had funding issues.
“When a project is delayed, some costs accompany that delay in terms of mobilisation of contractors, change of price of goods like cement in 2012 is different from now,” Dr Kibicho said.
In 2019 the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife suffered a major setback after a lobby group sued to have the tender cancelled over alleged fraud.
The Presidential Delivery Unit visited the site in October 2019, a week before the President arrived in Mombasa to assess the status of the project, only to find it “abandoned”.
The PDU was astonished to find seven workers on site at the 40-acre plot.
The project was set to be completed in 2018.
In 2017, Parliament directed that the college be redesigned to accommodate 3,000 students, among other additional components for Sh8.9 billion.
The National Assembly’s Public Investment Committee said the redesign would ensure that the project was cost-effective and give taxpayers value for their money.
The committee investigated a special audit report that questioned the circumstances that led to the rise in costs from the original Sh1.9 billion to Sh8.9 billion before it was scaled down to Sh4.9 billion.
But in a recent interview with the Nation, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala cited funding challenges.
RNUC was set to become the second government-owned tourism training institution. It is expected to meet workforce demands and supplement what is offered by Kenya Utalii College.
Tourism stakeholders, led by Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) executive officer Sam Ikwaye, expressed disappointment over the delays.
“It has had serious issues and yes delay is a blow to manpower development for the sector,” Dr Ikwaye said.
“Seemingly, priorities were wrong but we hope we can prioritise support to Utalii both in Nairobi and new RNUC so that the sector professionals can benefit from training and other manpower development programmes that are lacking at the moment.”
The project has been dogged by controversy since 2016, with some Coast MPs expressing disappointment.
The second-largest hospitality college in the country, after Kenya Utalii College (KUC) in Nairobi, is set to create more training opportunities for students and workers in the hospitality industry as KUC can no longer meet existing demand.
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