Monday, October 9, Kitui. By Brian Peter
The common Kitui mwananchi is facing a possiblility of getting burdened with unnecessary debts that may spill over years, owing to rashly done poorly-thought projects, bad politically-driven decisions, and laxity in oversight roles by the county assembly.
Several flopped mega-projects, and unnecessary accumulated debts have dotted the timeline of the current Kitui County Government regime since it came in power over a year ago. Kitui Newspaper has gone back in time to highlight some of the projects and accumulating debts that will burden the Musangis for years to come:
1. The Ndengu Revolution
Kitui County Government, late last year, started a green-gram farming project, in partnership with Red Cross Kenya. This project, which has made the current regime lose some of its popularity, saw the local mwananchi lose around 400 million in an agricultural production project that lacked the most-basic of any value-added production: a market-driven approach. Despite the County Government’s initial promise of Ksh. 100 per kilo, Kitui farmers have been left stranded with a massive production surplus crop, with the only thing they’ve got to date being stories of banned imports in India and a possiblility of a potential market in Vietnam.
2. The bed-bugs fumigation
Earlier this year, Kituians woke to the shock of over 40 million worth of taxpayers money that was allegedly used for fumigation of bed-bugs in Kitui East sub-county. This was after allegations that a bed-bug had been spotted crawling up the shoulder of the Governor during one of her functions in the area. It has never been clear to date which company was awarded the tender, or exactly how much was used for the project; but one thing is very vivid- no local of Kitui East can testify of any fumigations having been done in their homes or environs.
3. Unpaid contracts from previous regime
There are 87 major construction tenders lying unpaid by the Kitui County Government, simply because of what is seemingly a getting back at the previous regime supporters move.
Roads construction and drifts jobs that were issued in June 2016 still remain unpaid to date, despite the jobs having been completed and certified. Kitui Newspaper has dug deep into the controversy behind the unpaid contracts and unearthed interesting details.
The total cost for those jobs is Ksh. 1.2 billion. Majority of the contracts had been completed by October 2016 and the County Assembly passed a supplementary budget of 600 million between December 2016 and February 2017 to facilitate the first leg of their payments. Being in the wake of the 2017 General Elections, political powers fell almost immediately into play, accusing the former governor of using the tenders as a guise to raise campaign funds. EACC showed up almost at once and began investigations into allegations that these were ghost projects. All the 87 contractors were summonned and they produced their documents. These documents raged from LSOs, award letters, contract forms, compliance documents, among other legal company documents.
EACC visited the sites in question afterwards to confirm the projects were done, and even summoned technical officers(national government engineers). The engineers did randomn sampling of 41 projects and assertained they were done to precision. In their report to the EACC (which Kitui Newspaper got a chance to read but unable to publish since it’s a classified document), the engineers even mentioned that some of the contractors had been ….underpaid, according to the level and scope of the work done.
In 18th May 2018, EACC wrote a letter to the Kitui County Government clearing the said contractors for payment. According to the official stamp in the letter (which Kitui Newspaper managed to get a copy of) the County Government of Kitui recieved the letter on 22nd May 2018, yet not a single contractor has been paid up to date.
So, what is the implication of this reluctance to pay the contractors to the local Mwananchi?
Kitui Newspaper consulted with a renown scholar in business law who sought anonymity for privacy reasons, and he made it clear that Legally, the witheld payments accumulates a 16% interest annually, payable to the contractors along with their initial dues.
Going by the math thus, a 16% interest of the 1.2 billion is 192 Million every year! Multiplying this by the three years due, the figure sky-rockets to 576 Million! The contractors have already gone to court to demand their dues, and insider sources have told Kitui Newspaper that the judgement is expected by the end of this month.
4. The Mt. Kenya Stores Closure
Mid this year, the County Government of Kitui closed up the Mt. Kenya Stores businesses in Kitui Town, under terms that the owner moved to court to challenge. With allegations that raged from ‘selling poisonous sugar’ to ‘health concerns’, the government closed up the business located just behind the Kitui County Assembly chambers, even stationing law enforcement officers to guard the premises day and night.
Insider sources from the court have told Kitui Newspaper that Mt. Kenya Stores is currently claiming damages of over 78 million from the County Government of Kitui, and the figure keeps imcreasing with the advent of days. The reasons for the county government’s closure of the store has never been comprehensive or coherrent to the common mwananchi, with some people reading political motives all over the script.
“Both the contractors and the store owners have valid claims against the County Government of Kitui, and not against the political class. Even in the event of the current regime’s tenure expiring, if they ever win the case against the government, it would be the local mwananchi who will shoulder the burden of political mistakes and pay the accrued debts, ” advised a renown Kitui advocate.
The Kitui County Assembly has continued to turn a blind eye to these matters that fall squarely into their role of oversight to the government, as the mwananchi sings the Mbee Nzei totally oblivious of the impeding predicament.