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Poor planning, corruption big tests for devolution

by April 22, 2016 General

Corruption and misplaced priorities in western Kenya counties are threatening to wipe out the excitement of the last three years of government being closer to the people.

Residents polled by Saturday Nation to get a feel of what wananchi think since devolution took effect returned mixed results, giving the system a guarded vote of confidence.

In sum, they think a lot would have been achieved had governors reduced on wastage with the right priorities.

In Kisumu, leadership wrangles and corruption allegations have overshadowed development.

The county, headed by Governor Jack Ranguma, has in the past months attracted negative headlines with the latest being the sacking and forcible eviction of town manager Doris Ombara from office over allegations of misuse of funds.

These wars have also delayed passing of key Bills and motions in the county assembly following a six-month impasse that befell the House after the ouster of Speaker Ann Adul last year.

Mr Ranguma has also been involved in a tug-of-war with his deputy Ruth Odinga. Their differences have been blamed on a quest to control the county’s funds.

Last year, Mr Ranguma was accused of spending Sh21 million on accommodation in a hotel as the county renovated his official residence. At the same time, another Sh540, 000 was paid by the county government as the governor’s house rent.

However, the county government says it has made notable steps towards improving service delivery. Last year, the county bought eight ambulances to improve access to healthcare in remote areas as well as the construction of dykes in flood prone areas of Nyando.

“Kisumu County has one of the highest infant death rates which stands at 130 per 1,000 births annually. The ambulances will be a big boost to the health sector in the county,” said Mr Ranguma.

In Siaya, the Cornel Rasanga-led administration has constructed 62 nursery school classes, hired 450 teachers, renovated county hospitals, bought tractors and erected street lights.

Construction works at the hospital set to be completed in July, will see the facility upgraded to accommodate more patients as well as restock drugs at a cost of Sh119 million.

However, the devolved unit has also been rocked by corruption scandals including the controversial Sh12 million tea budget, the Sh70 million irregular purchase of vehicles and inflated prices for hiring the tractors. The price for hiring the county tractors was also increased from the Sh1, 200 to Sh1, 850 per acre, an amount farmers said is expensive.

The county had procured eight new tractors in the 2015-2016 budget at Sh66 million.

Busia County government prides itself as one of the few without a debt since 2013 when the devolved system of government was introduced in Kenya.

Governor Sospeter Ojaamong explained that proper planning during while making the budget has enabled the county to operate duty-free. But the county has also been tainted by graft allegations which saw the office of the governor raided last year by officials from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

Deportation of Deputy Governor Caleb Amaswache from Singapore early last year and claims that County Assembly Speaker Dan Chitwah used Sh1.8 million of taxpayers money for his wedding and honeymoon have tainted the Vihiga County government.

The county was also marred with irregular recruitment of 116 staff at the County Assembly, a move that led to the sacking of the then clerk Mr Josephat Musambayi.

Last week, MCAs suspended Mr Chitwah pending investigations into allegations that he used Sh1.85 million county cash to fund his wedding and honeymoon.

Mr Amaswache has denied claims that he was deported for being drunk and disorderly on the plane. He said he was “returned” to Kenya after failing to produce documents allowing him to visit the country.

Mr Amaswache was to attend the sixth Annual Affordable Housing Conference between April 15 and April 17 in 2015 at Marina Mandarin Hotel, in Singapore.

The deputy county chief promised to refund the money allocated to him as per diem for the trip as it was not used for the intended purpose. The Nation could not establish whether he returned the money totalling to Sh492,156.

Still, Governor Akaranga points to such achievements as the “30,000 students in secondary schools and tertiary institutions have benefited from a total of Sh225 million allocated to the county’s bursary kitty established in early 2014.”