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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Unpaid Kitale contractors report governor to watchdog

Trans Nzoia governor Patrick  Khaemba is facing yet another the storm after weathering the crisis following the relocation of matatu operators from the main bus park to the railway station yard. This time he is battling local contractors who are jointly demanding for millions owed to them for maintenance of rural roads in the county.
 Weekly  Citizen has established the contractors have threatened to sue the governor for nonpayment of half a billion which they incurred in grading and gravelling more than 1000 kilometres of the county rural roads in the 2013/2014 financial year
Incidentally the opening of the rural roads have been the trade mark of Khaemba’s  development blueprint for which he has kept bragging at every opportunity.
However when it comes to payment, all sorts of excuses, ranging from irregularities in procurement to lack of money have been floated around. Last December Khaemba invited auditors from the Kenya National Audit Office to inspect the rural roads with preliminary reports indicating they gave the project a clean bill of health
Now, the contractors say they have sought assistance from the office of the Controller and Auditor General, the controller of budget and local members of parliament in a letter to the governor dated March 30 2015.
“Our members have undergone trauma, stress and financial loss occasioned by the auctioneering of their properties used as collateral to obtain loans in order to complete your jobs,” says the letter signed by the chairman Jackson Mukui and secretary Isaac Muturi.   
The letter goes further to demand that the governor makes a categorical commitment to pay the contractors by April 8 2015 failure to which the group would proceed to court.
“The purpose of this letter, therefore is to request you to make an unequivocal commitment on when you intend to pay our members and at any rate not later than April 15 2015   failure to which we will proceed and institute legal proceedings without further reference to you,” he said.
The timing of the letter coincided with the angry skirmishes that rocked Kitale town last week after members of the public joined matatu operators in demonstrating against the relocation of the main bus stand to the periphery of the suburbs of the railway yard. For the first time in Kitale town, armed policemen fired to stop the demonstrators from scaling the wall that leads to the governor’s office. Vehicles were destroyed and properties of unknown amount looted
The demonstrators were concerned that the matatus were relocated without consultations, the end being an ugly scene that confronts every visitor entering Kitale town. They also complained that the high and mighty had allocated themselves kiosk sites in a deal that was later denounced by the management of the Kenya Railways.
“Kitale is today about the only town in subSaharan Africa that exhibits dirty kiosks on its main entrance as if it is a tourist attraction. Instead of the governor stepping aside to provide a chance for investigators to probe myriads of financial improprieties, he is busy frustrating the same contractors who opened up hundreds of kilometres of the forgotten rural roads, he should pay them immediately,” lamented Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.
Wamalwa vowed to take up the issue of the contractors with the relevant government offices, regretting that even some of the contractors had died of high blood pressure while pursuing their dues
“Any time this governor is at funerals, he is shouting from the roof tops how he has graded rural roads. But what he conveniently fails to tell his listeners is that two years down the line, these contractors have not been paid,” the maverick MP said while demanding for major changes in 2017.
“Our neighbours in West Pokot voted in a teacher as governor and Simeon Kachapin has gone ahead to open up even the most remote hinterland in that county. Businessmen in West Pokot  are happy and almost all the villages have been lit up, is it not time we tried a teacher like Cosmas Nabongolo (Principal St Anthony) for the job?” he posed while issuing cheques to various primary schools in his constituency.
Nabongolo’s name has been surfacing time and again since he catapulted the school to national glory in last year’s KCSE. Out of 251 candidates, 168 had As while only three got a B-.
The teacher who has also steered the school to greater heights in sports, becoming the first school in Kenya to get the East and Central school championship title is viewed by a cross section of the communities as a compromise candidate capable of softening the tribal polarities that have rocked the cosmopolitan county.
By the time of going to press, a source at the office of the Auditor and Controller General revealed that Khaemba had been summoned  at Anniversary Towers office to explain the undue delays in paying the contractors.
The governor explained that he was willing to pay them but had been hindered by the delay of an audit report from the same office.