Mathioya MP Captain Clement Wambugu is a man under siege. For him, sending a group of students from his rural constituency to the aviation school, was a dream come true and a noble mission to uplift the youth.
But this undertaking has landed him in trouble with a section of his constituents who cannot understand why the Mathioya Constituency Development Fund (CDF) can allocate Sh24.7 million to sponsor eight students for the aviation course.
The Mathioya CDF had committed the money to sponsor the students to a flying school in Nairobi, looping them into a career path similar to that of Wambugu, a former airline pilot.
Those opposed to the programme feel if well utilised, the money could increase bursary allocation to needy secondary and university students. Being a rural constituency, aviation is regarded as an elitist undertaking that ought to be left to individual parents.
There was more uproar from constituents following revelation that one of the beneficiaries of the programme was the daughter of the CDF chairman, Thuku Ndonga, who is related to the MP.
Critics also demanded an investigation into the selection of the seven other beneficiaries. But in a telephone interview, Wambugu defended the aviation sponsorship saying it was a move to promote youth empowerment in the constituency.
He however declined to answer questions on how the beneficiaries were chosen, and instead directed The Standard on Sunday to sub location bursary committees.
“All applicants who showed interest in the programme applied as directed and the successful ones underwent an aptitude test where some were disqualified,” he said.
The MP downplayed her niece’s inclusion in the programme, saying she was part of the shortlisted candidates from the sub location. “All the students who showed interest in the programme underwent vetting,” he said. “The best were picked by the bursary committee.”
But Members of the Murang’a County Assembly led by Duncan Njuguna faulted the programme, saying Wambugu imposed it on them. Njuguna demanded that the money be directed to other education programmes as aviation was “luxurious and would benefit only a few.”
“The money should be allocated to other useful community projects as the students have already attained their degrees and can sponsor themselves to undertake aviation courses,” he said.
Ahadi Trust Executive Director Stanley Kamau termed the programme a waste of public funds. “There are better ways of helping the public than imposing expensive programmes on them,” Kamau, a resident of Mathioya, said. But Wambugu denied imposing the programme on the CDF committee, adding Kenya is in need of more pilots and aviation training institutions are willing to support community based programmes.
“By 2030, the country will be in need of more pilots as there will be increased number of aircrafts,” he said.
The fate of the eight students, who are already undergoing training in a city college, now hangs in balance. The CDF National Board has rejected the programme.
Yesterday, the CDF National Board said the project has been suspended since it had not approved it.
A public relations officer who identified herself only as Brenda said the constituency will have to come up with another programme.
“The development programmes to be funded by the board must originate from the public and be in line with the CDF Act,” she said.
The officer said Sh24.7 million allocated to the project would not be released until the CDF committee identifies another programme. “I assure Mathioya residents that their money is intact,” she said.
Well paying career
The money was to be paid to a flying school based at Wilson Airport in Nairobi.
The Standard on Sunday has established that a fee of Sh2.7 million is charged for a Commercial Pilot License (CPL) at the flying school, with a compulsory deposit of Sh400,000 on admission.
Not everyone is opposed to the project though. Mathioya residents Jane Njambi and Peter Githua accused a section of leaders of politicising the project which they said was a strategy to expose the youth to well paying careers.
“We need to nurture talents among our youth. What is wrong if we have more professional pilots from Mathioya,” Njambi, who is from Kiru location, said.