Six years since devolution began, most governors, deputy governors and speakers in Coast region still live in private or rented houses.
The exception is Kilifi, where Governor Amason Kingi lives in a palatial house bought for Sh130 million a few years ago.
In June, the County Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee slashed the budget for procuring a house for the deputy governor from Sh214 million to Sh100 million.
“During the public hearing for the budget, residents wanted the entire budget for the procurement of the deputy governor’s residence done away with. But as a committee we opted to reduce the amount to meet the national government directive that governors and their deputies should have county houses,” said committee chairman Albert Kiraga.
“That is why we set the amount at Sh100 million and saved taxpayers Sh114 million that will be diverted to development projects.”
Governors and their deputies in Taita Taveta and Mombasa counties have never lived in official residences. Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho was expected to live in the house of the former mayor of Mombasa but it was condemned and sold off more than a decade ago under unclear circumstances.
Joho and his deputy William Kingi live in personal and rented houses in Mombasa.
Finance and Budget Committee chairman Mohamed Hatimy said they had not approved a budget to acquire houses.
“We have not set aside any funds for the construction of residences for the governor, his deputy or the speaker. The governor has not considered this project a priority. The next governor can come and build the residences,” said Mr Hatimy.
He noted that the county government had prioritised improvement of hospitals, education and water supply instead in the current financial year.
County Director of Communications Richard Chacha said the governor was comfortable living in his private residence.
“There was a proposal for the building of the residences but the idea was shot down by residents during public hearings on the budget. We, therefore, do not consider building the residences as a priority,” Mr Chacha said, adding that construction of the homes may be considered in subsequent county budgets as the county government currently has more pressing projects to implement.
Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja will also continue living in his Mwakishimba home after he rejected plans to build him a new house.
More than Sh85 million has been factored in the 2018-2019 budget estimates for the governor’s and deputy governor’s residences.
Mr Samboja said building a governor’s residence was not a priority for him, adding that the funds would instead be channelled to bursaries and scholarships for bright children from poor families.
County Assembly Leader of Majority Jason Tuja said the speaker was currently renting a house because he did not have an official residence. Sources indicated Sh40 million had been set aside for the project.
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[Renson Mnyamwezi, Nehemiah Okwembah and Patrick Beja]