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Sh46 billion and two years later, NMS has delivered amid hitches

Some of the newly built toilets at Uhuru Park by NMS. [Courtesy, NMS]

With the end of a two-year term in sight and more than Sh46.3 billion in funding later, the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) is transitioning following a change of guard at City Hall.

Its exit in November will mark the end of a tumultuous yet fruitful journey undertaken by NMS under the stewardship of Lieutenant General Mohammed Badi.

The inception of NMS stemmed from the self-confessed ineptitude of former governor Mike Sonko’s administration, which was financially hemorrhaging from faults created by cartels.

In a year ravaged by Covid-19, President Uhuru Kenyatta intervened and set up NMS that he hyped as the silver bullet to rid the capital of its woes. After the signing of a deed of transfer of functions between the Nairobi county government and the national government, NMS got down to work.

It was tasked with rescuing the city by dismantling cartels whose vice-like grip on City Hall had made service delivery almost impossible, streamlining urban renewal projects such as urban housing in Pangani and Bachelors Jevanjee, as well as implementing the Nairobi railway master plan.

It was also expected to streamline issuance of building approvals and licences, decongest the city, tackle garbage menace and operationalise non-motorised transport goals such as installation of walkways. Its other task was to reform water and sanitation sectors, sewerage, health and roads.

What would follow was a hectic 100 days as the NMS hit the ground running but its rabble-rousing ways set it on a collision path with Sonko. He accused NMS of implementing the transfer deed in an “atrocious and repugnant manner”.

What would light the fuse between the two parties was Sonko’s refusal to approve a supplementary budget allocating Sh15 billion to NMS. Badi would - seemingly in retaliation - repossess a multi-million properties in Upper Hill said to belong to Sonko. 

This prompted a back-and-forth and set in motion bitter rivalry.  This and his threat to pull out of the agreement only served to work against him as Badi enjoyed the backing of a section of MCAs, who eventually maneuvered his removal through an impeachment motion. With his exit, Deputy Governor Anne Kananu took over the reins. 

For the two years that it has served the NMS has also come under sharp criticism from the city residents who have often complained over its inability to address the garbage issue, rampant demolitions, especially in the slum areas and failure to clear pending bills now running into billions. 

MCAs also severally put NMS on notice over its opaqueness when it came to being over sighted citing its failure to submit quarterly budget reports in line with the deed of transfer. 

Badi, however, says that a lot has been achieved despite the numerous legal challenges that his institution has had to surmount. 

“We took over the plans of the county government and started engaging the contractors who had then started the works. We faced legal challenges as the county government was resisting to hand over the contracts to us to implement the projects,” said Badi in an earlier interview with The Standard. 

In the health sector, Badi said NMS has constructed a total of 28 hospitals with a major focus being in the disadvantaged areas. As of last month, 20 of them had already been commissioned and fully operational while the remaining eight were still in the works. 

The NMS has also been able to construct 500 km of tarmacked road within the slum areas. This, he said, was largely attributed to the setting up of an asphalt (bitumen) plant along Kangundo Road which played a key role in the construction and recarpeting of roads.

The NMS is also towards the tail end of the completion of the renovation of Uhuru and Central parks to give them a world-class modern look for recreational purposes. 

“The parks had been outdated and renovations ought to have been done 20 years ago. Most of the children’s playgrounds in the estates have been grabbed and they lack a place where they can play and mingle. Once we complete Uhuru Park, it will be an epic place for families,” he added.

NMS has also identified 76.01 acres within Nairobi that will be converted to recreational spaces.

The areas are located in Embakasi East, Kasarani, Kamukunji, Westlands and Kibera sub-counties, including 31.73 acre in Jacaranda Grounds and 7.27 acre in Kamukunji.

Under Land and Urban Planning, the NMS has streamlined the development controls and applications process by clearing about 4,500 pending development applications and digitising the process. 

Under the environment docket, the NMS has closed 110 illegal dumping sites and discharging points that were affecting Nairobi and Ngong rivers. To this effect, four companies were taken to court and various housing estates were prosecuted for breaking environmental laws through illegal effluent discharge.

Badi noted that NMS had also recovered 35 grounded garbage collection vehicles and renewed contracts of private garbage collectors that had stalled because of non-payment. They have also re-engaged 24 new companies.

“In the water sector, a total of 193 boreholes in various areas in Nairobi have been drilled. Therefore, 100,000 stainless steel water tanks have been installed, and water pumps and water kiosks manned by youths from the areas to eradicate cartels,” stated Badi. 

The jury is still out on whether Governor Johnson Sakaja’s administration will deliver more than what NMS was able to accomplish.