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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Machakos county MPs quietly abandon Mutua


Machakos county is in the throes one of the fiercest political battles with the axis orbiting around Senator Johnson Muthama laying ground for countywide rallies to force beleagured Governor Alfred Mutua out of office. And as Mutua becomes more vulnerable, MPs hitherto licking his boots are now quietly pulling away.
This comes in the wake of a gripping financial crunch facing the county with economic analysts warning that the county is headed to fiscal doldrums and eventual collapse. The county is owed Sh4b by contractors three of whom have died from hypertension after banks attached their property on defaulting loans they took to do  county work. For the last one month, the county government has sacked over 700 employees with the latest bunch of 200 receiving their terminal letters last week.
The sacking was a culmination of a standoff between the employees and county government over salary arrears for the last three months. The workers irregularly employed as casual and others on contract did not bear letters of appointment from the county public service board and majority were seconded by MCAs allied to the governor. The move has caused a rift between the governor and the MCAs with the number opposing him soaring.
Although upon election the governor enjoyed support from all the 59 MCAs in the assembly, the number has reduced to a mere 24 with 35 MCAs now tilting towards the Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala who is at loggerheads with Mutua and now pushing for the ouster of the former government spokesman.
Insiders indicate that harsh reality is fast dawning on the publicity-hungry governor of last one year who has reportedly been thriving on fanciful development projects as attacks directed at him by MCAs, deputy governor and worse more, the county senator who has vowed to remove him from office through thick and thin, snowball in a juggernaut.
According to sources, Mutua’s troubles started when he engaged in employing people considered to be outsiders and positioned them strategically as his advisers and who later turned brokers and wheeler-dealers instead of working to improve the  living standards of the  residents.
 Those accused by the rebel leaders of running down the county include former governor Mutua’s bodyguard Nimrod Mbai, Mwengi Mutuse and a group of chief officers. Mbai from Kitui is in charge of decentralised units. He controls all devolved local authorities and has featured prominently in the staff hiring scam that has rocked the county. Mwengi from Makueni is Mutua’s chief adviser and chief of staff.
The county, according to insiders, is paralysed by debts owed by suppliers and contractors making it difficult to operate and deliver services.
 The downing of tools by unpaid health workers has brought to the limelight the financial instability of the county, precipitating a crisis meeting where a return-to-work formula was agreed. The workers were mad at the county government’s failure to surrender deduction to various institutions amounting to Sh107 million. The deduction was meant for NHIF, NSSF, banks and insurance firms in contracts with the workers.
Machakos Level Five Hospital, the biggest in the county and serving the neighbouring counties of Kitui and Makueni, is said to be in a major financial crisis after key donors threatened to withdraw funding. Documents seen by Weekly Citizen indicate that by the time the governor was sworn in, the hospital accounts had Sh66 million and no debt was registered. But today, the hospital owes Sh150 to suppliers of drugs, food and pharmaceutical detergents. It is alleged World Health Organisation  has written letters seeking explanations on the expenditure Sh96 million donations meant for infrastructure upgrading which was diverted to  paying salaries. The world health body has threatened to withdraw funding if not supplied with adequate and satisfactory answers. Danish International Development Agency  in the last financial year also granted the hospital Sh12 million with the national government channeling Sh109 million which now cannot be explained, raising anxiety and eyebrows.
The governor is also on the spot for defying the Controller of Budget ceiling on funding the county assembly of Machakos. The controller had put a ceiling of Sh487 million but the assembly was allocated Sh940 million.
So far, the MCAs have spent Sh500 million with much going to funding foreign trips. The move to cut down the allocation has brought a rift between the governor and the MCAs loyal to him who are now armtwisting him to stand with the Sh940 million allocation.
According to planners of the Okoa County rallies which kicked off  in Athi River, they will lead to every major town in the county for the next one month seeking voters’ endorsement for the impeachment of the embattled governor.