Why Trans Nzoia is pushing for separation from Bungoma over water company

Nzowasco company offices along the Webuye-Malaba highway in Webuye Town. [File, Standard]

Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka has been seeking a more amicable solution to the matter. Speaking to The Standard via phone Lusaka said that he is not opposed to the push by Trans Nzoia to de-cluster the water company but the process should not leave a bitter taste in the mouth

"Bungoma and Trans Nzoia are like twins from the same mother. We are by all accounts co-joined especially culturally" Lusaka said "I am open to the idea but the process should not be a bitter quarrel. We are still discussing the matter and will soon find a solution".

Lusaka said his government is already working with donors to develop the many water catchment points on Mt Elgon and therefore move away from what has been a long-time dependence on the Chereng'any water. For the last 19 years since its establishment, Nzowasco has had its main source of water in the neighbouring county Trans Nzoia.

For nearly two decades, everything moved like clockwork at Nzowasco but things went south between 2017-2022 after the change of top leadership at the company as well as the board of directors.

From breakage of pipes, and taps running dry to runaway corruption and nepotism when it comes to employment with top management allegedly employing kinsmen.

"The consumers of Nzowasco water are an unhappy lot. The biggest problem is the water supply. In case of breakage in pipes, it takes between 9-15 days to have them repaired. For the last six months, we have not seen a drop of water in the taps at our doorsteps yet we are slapped with standing charges of at least Sh350 per month," said a resident of Kiminini constituency who sought anonymity because he is a key stakeholder in Nzowasco.

He claimed that meter readers at the water company have also gone rogue and have now perfected the art of 'milking dry' unsuspecting consumers by confiscating their meters.

"The meter readers normally come when you are not around, they will confiscate your meter on claims of unpaid water bills. They don't return your meter until you bribe them."

He lamented that they have made several complaints to the management over the issue but no action has been taken.

Samuel Kiboi, the Chairperson of the Trans Nzoia County Government Workers Union said that for the last three months, they have not seen water in their taps and now have resorted to buying water that is hawked on the streets but at the end of the month, they pay Sh350 as standing charges.

"In Trans Nzoia, areas covered by Nzowasco have no water, when we make complains, they tell us to go to Webuye where Nzowasco headquarters sit, the Webuye office in turn tells you to go to Kitale."

Kiboi said that if they de-cluster Nzowasco, the Sh22 million they pay to Bungoma will be used to get water for the locals from Cherangany and Mt Elgon water catchment areas.

Nzowasco company banner in a truck during a past sensitization exercise. [File, Standard]

But Nzowasco Managing Director Mathew Maruti Wakhungu dismissed claims of the management employing their own relatives, friends and cronies, saying that the recruitment process is always above board in his letter to The Standard.

"The company has internal human resource recruitment mechanisms which are in compliance with the law and are fully adhered to. With regards to the recruitment of management, the same is done through a competitive process by the board of directors," said Maruti.

About the confiscation of meters by staff, Maruti said that no complaints had been registered to the management, arguing that if there's any evidence to that effect, they were willing to crack the whip as management.

The Nzowasco MD also denied claims that a section of the board of directors opposed to his style of leadership is normally not invited to board meetings. He, however, did not respond to claims of micro-managing the board by setting his own agenda and approving the same in board meetings.

"All Board members are officially invited to attend board meetings and attendance registers
are duly signed. It is legally impossible to selectively invite some members to attend
meetings and leave out others," said Maruti

He added: "The board of directors makes decisions which are implemented by the management. The allegation on allowances to board members whose term has expired is unfounded,"

On Trans Nzoia seeking a divorce from Bungoma county when it comes to the provision of water by Nzowasco, Maruti said he has no authority to speak about the issues raised but rather it's a preserve of stakeholders.

"A task force to oversee the de-clustering of Nzowasco was formed by the stakeholders. Therefore, any matters regarding de-clustering can only be responded to by the stakeholders. With regards to the company revenue, this information is made public during the Annual General Meetings," said Maruti.