By Sofia Ali
The Government will arrest and prosecute contractors who fail to deliver on time or do shoddy work, Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary (CS) Dr. Fred Matiang’i has said.
Accompanied by leaders – three governors, four senators and 20 MPs – from Western Kenya and fellow CSs in the Ministries of Agriculture (Hon. Peter Munya), Devolution (Hon. Eugene Wamalwa) and Water (Hon. Sicily Kariuki) at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in Nairobi County, the CS revealed that the Government had reassigned 30% of all road projects in the Western region.
“Some contractors who were identified earlier, either bundled the contract on the way because they didn’t have sufficient capacity or had challenges of one kind or the other,” said Dr. Matiang’i.
Serving in his capacity as the National, Development, Implementation, Communication, Cabinet, Committee (NDICCC) chairperson, Dr. Matiang’i said that there should be no excuse fronted by the contractors in regards to non-completion of projects since the National Treasury has been releasing the required funds.
“Funds are no longer the excuse because it is true the Exchequer, our National Treasury, released over Shs30 billion in the last two weeks alone to pay up pending bills particularly in the road construction sector. We have the bond through which we have received resources.”
Dr. Matiang’i warned that the old way of approaching development matters will no longer be tolerated not just in the Western region, but throughout the country.
“Some of our local contractors, not just in the Western part of our country, are just basically playing games. Some of them come from the old school, where they believe in navigating their way around by either bribing public officials or corrupting people in Government and hoping that that is the way to proceed and survive.”
To belabour the issue, the CS recounted that on his tour of Nyandarua County (on 15th June, 2020) to inspect development projects, he ordered the immediate arrest and prosecution of a contractor who had failed to complete a road that was commissioned four years ago.
“The contractor took up an assignment to construct four-and-a-half kilometers of a road about four years ago. I ordered his arrest. We shall take him to court for wasting public resources. We are not going to play these kinds of games anymore. Long gone are the days when contractors believe they can escape responsibility by through bribes.”
Dr. Matiang’i reiterated that it’s not only contractors who’ll be bear the brunt of irresponsibility but any public officials implicated in wrongdoing. “Even we in the public sector shall face the law. In cases where fictitious certificates have been issued, like in Taita Taveta, where last week, we insisted on the arrests of the contractors and the public officials who issued the certificates for work that is not done. We must love our country enough to do the work we have been given to do.”
Going by the recommendation of the Council of Governors Chair and County of Kakamega Governor, Hon. Wycliffe Oparanya, the NDICCC chair said he shall embark on a two-day inspection tour of all commissioned National Government development projects in the Western Region counties of Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma and Transzoia on the 20th and 21st of July, 2020.
“Had it not been for Covid-19 and the challenges related to movement, I’d have loved to have this meeting in Kakamega so that we are also able to bring in other lower level representations like MCAs and others so that we sit together and look into these projects and listen to wananchi also.”
Dr. Matiang’i insisted that he’ll not accept any form of graft or lies. “Sometimes you are told that a road is 70% complete; when you meet these leaders, you are informed that it’s not even 20% complete in certain cases.”
The CS urged leaders and other lower level officials to immediately desist from frustrating the efforts of CSs and PSs. “No minister of PS can be everywhere in the country. We depend on lower level officials who supervise this work. If anyone tries to navigate or play around, s/he will face the law.”
The CS cited the case of Lake Victoria North Water Company. “How is it that you can say you have drilled X number of boreholes in Western Kenya and half of those boreholes are not yielding water, they are not complete, yet we have records that you drilled the boreholes. We have insisted that they file proper reports. Our County Commissioners have been instructed to go and look at those boreholes to ensure that what we have in our books is correct.”
Dr. Matiang’i was grateful about meeting the leaders, terming the consultation as fruitful. He said that the leaders had drawn the Government’s attention to areas where projects have stalled or need improvements altogether.
On his part, CS Munya said that the Government had had deliberations on the key value chains affecting Western Kenya’s key economic sectors of sugar, coffee and cotton. “We have briefed leaders on the progress we have made on the revival of sugar. Indeed we are in the final stages of recommending legislative interventions to create a sugar board and to also create a sugar levy fund that will raise money that will be ploughed into the development of the sugar sector.”
The CS added that the Government will be leasing out all non-performing sugar mills to the private sector and write off all the debts that have been accumulated by those mills. Meanwhile, coffee farming will also undergo a revival in Western Kenya through improvement of infrastructure. “We shall have a meeting with coffee farmers in July but coffee farming will be revived countrywide.”
The CS also alluded to the issue of cotton, saying that demonstration farms have been set up. “We are in the process of reviving ginneries. We shall also be giving farmers quality seeds to farmers so that cotton revival can start in earnest in Western Kenya.”
On floods, CS Wamalwa, on behalf of CS Kariuki said that all flood control matters have been canvassed at length including the recovery process that has over Shs1.5 billion directed towards flood control. “CS Kariuki will be visiting the Western region soon while the technical committee will visit next week to look at issues to do with dykes, construction of dams and ensuring that all of those affected by floods are given support.”