A Senate oversight committee on Wednesday took Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana to task over 26 stalled development projects worth Sh146 million.
In the past, Makueni has been considered a model of efficient governance and the destination of benchmarking tours.
The projects were initiated in the 2017-18 financial year but stalled halfway through or failed to start. Reasons included lack of resources, lack of land and residents’ decision to change projects.
Some stalled projects were not persuasively explained.
The projects were implemented through various county departments such as Transport, Health, Agriculture and Trade.
The stalled projected were reported by former Auditor General Edward Ouko in his audit on the financial operations of the Makueni county executive for the financial year ending June 30, 2018.
“This is contrary to Section 153 of the Public Management Act 2012, that stipulates assets be managed in such a way as to ensure the county government entirely achieves value for money in acquiring, using or disposing those assets,” the report reads.
The report added that failure to implement projects on time could lead to cost escalation, might attract litigation by the contractors and the public would not benefit.
During the year, the former auditor gave Makueni a clean bill of health (unqualified opinion) for proper record keeping.
Appearing before the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC), Governor Kibwana was at pains to explain why his administration failed to implement the projects.
The county chief told the committee that various reasons including lack resources, scarcity of land and change of projects by the residents during public participation meetings led to the stagnation of some projects.
“The Makueni County Government is committed to ensure that projects are implemented as per the budget,” he said.
Kibwana added, “In circumstances where there is delay in implementation of the projects, the respective stakeholders are brought on board to ensure that the challenges are addressed and projects are implemented.”
In the event that a contractor is awarded a project and is not able to execute the works within the stipulated time, the tender is cancelled and another contractor procured, he said.
But the response did not satisfy the nine-member oversight committee chaired by Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri.
“In most of your projects, there is either reallocation or there is no land or no budget. What has been your budget focus? Does it mean for every project the county must buy land?” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei asked.
Migori Senator Ochilo Ayacko demanded to know whether the county had been carrying out feasibility studies before implementing projects.
“Do you usually do some feasibility studies before you initiated these projects?” he asked.
The governor said his administration has been carrying out feasibility studies, backed by “robust public participation” before embarking on any projects.
He added that the main challenge in implementing development projects is that most land has been privatised, forcing the administration to acquire land for every project.
The county’s model of public participation starts at the village level.