Governors and senators tussle as 2022 beckons

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen (left) and Governor Alex Tolgos. Senators of Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi and Trans Nzoia want the EACC to audit projects undertaken by their governors. [File, Standard]
Supremacy wars between senators and their governors in the North Rift have gone a notch higher even as the lawmakers attempt to stamp their oversight authority.

The county bosses are already taking the heat from their senators over a number of issues, ranging from employment of excessive workforce to stalled projects.

In Elgeyo Marakwet County, the tussle between Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Governor Alex Tolgos has sparked a fight over the control of the County Assembly.

It started with a war of words over the Sh65 billion Arror and Kimwarer dams before degenerating into the control of the County Assembly that almost led to the collapse of the 2019-2020 budgeting process.

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Mr Murkomen questioned the county’s ballooning wage bill and accused the governor of hiring unneeded staff.

“The problem with the governor is his leadership style. He has failed to employ workers who can help him run affairs of the county and deliver a legacy,” Murkomen said then.

But Governor Tolgos says Murkomen is fighting his administration because of his consistent criticism over the manner in which the dams projects were being implemented.

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“I am being fought because I raised questions about the implementation of Arror and Kimwarer dams but I’m happy because the truth came out. We now want the projects to continue because the state will not allow any corrupt person to interfere with the implementation process,” Tolgos says.

In Trans Nzoia, Senator Michael Mbito has called for investigations into a stalled multi-million shilling County Referral Hospital project in Kitale.

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Mbito, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health claimed the expansion of the health facility has so far gobbled up Sh1.6 billion. He said the project had not been completed despite receiving annual allocations since 2014.

Forensic audit

The senator asked state investigative agencies to conduct a forensic audit on the project, which he claimed has become a white elephant.

“It is a disgrace for Governor Patrick Khaemba to keep on promising residents that the facility will soon start offering services when the project has stalled,” Mbito said. 

Khaemba has however dismissed claims of misuse of funds in the project.

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“I’m disappointed with some individuals claiming my administration has misappropriated funds meant for the project. No single cent has been wasted and I want the Senate to come and audit the project,” he said.

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang has also come under sharp criticism from Senator Samson Cherargei since 2018.

Mr Cherargei has claimed several times that Governor Sang is mismanaging the county resources and should be investigated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption commission (EACC), claims that the county chief has rubbished.

But Eldoret-based political analyst Jonathan Lagat says the supremacy wars are all about 2022 succession politics.

Mr Lagat says some senators are eyeing governor seats in 2022 while others are plotting to endorse their allies for the top jobs.

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He says in Nandi, for instance, Cherargei’s oversight has been selective, noting that the senator has failed to champion the interests of peasants ahead of the expiry of land leases currently held by multinationals.

“The senators are also fighting to take credit for projects in their counties.

For example, in Nandi both the senator and the governor are claiming credit for the upgrade of a hospital to level five,” says Lagat.

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Succession politicsElections 2020North rift region