BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
The grandstanding between the Taita Taveta County Governor Granton Samboja and the County Assembly (CA) members is more political than ideological since the former took oath-of-office on August 21, 2017.
Already, the governor has solicited the support of ODM boss Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta to have his government dissolved after consistent clashes between his government and the CA on budgeting and allocation.
While Mr Odinga came out strongly against ‘rogue’ MCAs holding hostage of their governors in a bid to arm-twist them into agreeing to their whims, the President was guarded in his comments on the prevailing situation.
According to the State House meeting in Nairobi on Thursday the two leaders discussed a wide arrays of subjects including the rollout of Big 4 Agenda aligned projects, the Building Bridges Initiative as well as the sustain fight against corruption and economic crimes in the country.
But what is the root cause of the conflict? Sources that did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals cite prudent management of County resources by Samboja administration as the major reason for the ongoing differences.
“You see, Samboja came to office with the promises to invest heavily in all devolved sectors apart from ensuring funds received from the exchequer are budgeted and used appropriately,” says one of the sources.
During his swearing in ceremony at Mwatunge the governor was categorical to deal with all the problems that had dogged his predecessor (Gov John Mruttu) including pending bills, corruption, misappropriation of funds and skewed appointments of workers.
In fact, his deputy Majala Mlaghui was more candid that their administration will not condone any cartels or cases of graft saying transparency will be the key component in running county businesses.
For most of the rogue MCAs, this was not what they wanted to hear from a newcomer in the County after their escapades with the previous boss whom they had muscled to their ‘liking’ during budget making process.
Contacted for comments on phone, the Bura Ward MCA Anthony Mng’ambwa (WDM-K) expressed his disappointment over the governor’s claims that MCAs were using armtwisting tactics to block development projects.
“Between you and me who is the stumbling block here (county)?” he posed adding that the county chief was just being difficult for no apparent reasons.
According to him the Ward Development Kit of Sh41.6 million worth of projects in each of the 20 wards was supposed to be managed by the executive and not the MCAs as was being relayed to the electorates.
To ensure the Sh1.8 billion meant for development reached the grassroots, Mr Mng’ambwa said the County Assembly members and their executive counterparts agreed that some Sh832 million be disbursed for 20 wards’ development under the latter’s (executive) watch.
“There’s nowhere from our discussions did we (MCAs) say that money was to be under our care knowing very well of our oversight role of the executive,” he said adding that each ward would be assured of Sh41.6 million for development.
His Werugha counterpart and CA majority leader Jason Mwamodenyi Tuja (ODM) criticised the governor’s petition to disband his government saying it was premature and ill-advised.
“If you ask me, the governor is out of order and has no good reasons to subject the electorates with such arduous task of dissolving the County government,” he said citing the 2015 Makueni case that became a cropper.
But the adamant Samboja kicked off the collection of signatures from the residents on July 2 which has hit about 38,000 19 days later surpassing the expected 18,000 mark to call for byelections within his jurisdiction.
However, the 33 MCAs of the current 2017 elected and nominated ward representatives’ poli-demographic strata does not favour him when ODM controls the lion’s share of 14 followed by Jubilee’s seven, Social Democratic Party four, Ford Kenya three, Muungano and Wiper two each with one independent.
“That’s why he rushed to Baba (Odinga) to whip us into submission in his favour but that is a toll order and you can understand why he is jittery and on the warpath,” said one of the six nominated ODM representatives who did not want to be named.
But a sociopolitical commentator and lawyer, Prof Morris Mbondenyi, believes that the MCAs are out to blackmail and arm-twist the governor to break the law.
“Some of the proposed allocations, particularly those that touch on the County Assembly, are a blatant disregard of the Public Financial Management Act and other laws,” he adds.
According to him the governor cannot just do stuff to please them at the expense of the law noting that the levels of corruption and plunder of public resources by the MCAs is too high and worrying.
“They need to be tamed for Taita Taveta County to achieve its developmental goals,” he says.
Acknowledging that the procedure of suspending and dissolving county governments is tedious and cumbersome, Prof Mbondenyi says it revolves around the President and the Senate.
Whether Samboja’s quest will succeed, he adds, will really depend on the goodwill of the President to the people of the region and in his quest to fight corruption.
‘DIVERSION OF FUNDS’
The mistrust of the MCAs has seen 55 residents of Mwamkolo Village of Bura Ward petition the CA’s Liason Committee to investigate the diversion of Sh1 million allocated for village road to a Cooling Milk Plant.
Through its leader Pascal Mbogho Kitogho, the petitioners alleged that their MCA, Mr Mng’ambwa, was hiding behind the youth development initiative to misappropriate the funds meant for the road.
Apart from this, the petitioners want the CA committee investigate how a portion of land meant for a Public National Library and Chief’s office has been turned into compartments of renting traders in the guise of youth initiatives.
“Right now an iron sheet kiosk and a car wash have been put up by force with three rooms selling miraa …,” says the petition in part.
But contacted for comments, Mr Mng’ambwa dismissed the allegations saying it was the machinations of his political enemies out to tarnish and malign his name for selfish gains.
Saying the Sh1 million was intact and had just being held for engineering survey of the village road, he challenged his adversaries to check the status of the project with either the County Secretary or the Public Works, Housing and Infrastructure county executive member Eng. Houghton Msagha Mombo.
“The road has a lot of rocks that require to be dealt with before the newly acquired grader can move in to level it for easy accessibility and durability,” he said on a phone interview.