How change of tack helped county open up rural roads, save millions

By George Njunge | Apr 15, 2024

Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi. [George Njunge, Standard]

The county government of Kiambu has rehabilitated over 1,000 kilometres of rural access roads spread in the 60 wards in a plan that has reduced the cost of construction from Sh6 million to Sh400,000 per kilometre.

Governor Kimani Wamatangi has invested approximately Sh500 million to improve the road network, where the regional government has mobilised its own road construction units as a cost-cutting measure and to enhance efficiency.

Data from the department of roads indicates that so far, 809 kilometres of roads have been graded and 302 kilometres gravelled, with the chief officer in charge of roads Edmound Njihia saying another 350 kilometres will be rehabilitated by June this year.

“The plan is to be working on at least 1,000 kilometres of roads per year,” Njihia who has been supervising the work with the help of the director of roads Joseph Kamau and sub-county road engineers, said on Sunday.

The devolved unit has devised a new approach for opening up rural and feeder access roads. Contracts are no longer given for rehabilitation of the rural access roads.

Wamatangi said, since he came into office, he has invested in 15 road construction units comprised of graders, roller compactors, trucks, water bowsers, and excavators, which have been opening up new roads and undertaking routine maintenance on feeder roads, including heavy grading at a significantly reduced cost.

The recent investment is the purchase of additional graders, excavators, compactors, and a low loader, all at a cost of Sh88 million to boost the capacity of the internal road construction units.

The excavators have been stockpiling murram and other road construction materials from quarries owned by the county in the sub-counties, a paradigm shift Wamatangi says has reduced the cost of the graveling material to only fueling the excavators and ferrying trucks.

One of the mega quarries where the county is sourcing raw material is in Gatong’ora ward on land owned by Ruiru-Juja Water and Sewerage Company.

Young men have been contracted in the labour-based framework, taking part in the spreading and compaction of the material on a daily wage.

In Lari, which for long has grappled with a poor road network, the county government has graded  68 kilometres of road and gravelled 28.20 kilometres, while in Gatundu North, which also had deplorable road infrastructure, Wamatangi has graded 64 kilometres and gravelled 24.30 kilometres.

Juja sub county has 122 kilometres graded and 60 kilometres gravelled while Thika has a total of 98 kilometres gradedand 67 kilometres gravelled. In Limuru, 68 kilometres have been graded and 24 kilometres gravelled.

In Gatundu South 46 kilometres are graded while 22 kilometres are gravelled, Ruiru has 46 kilometres graded and 34 gravelled. Githunguri has 42 kilometres graded and 24 kilometres gravelled while Kiambu Township has 46 kilometres graded and 26.9 kilometres gravelled.

In Gatundu South, 46 kilometres are graded and 22 kilometres gravelled.

"A three kilometre road project costing up to Sh6 million now costs Sh400,000. Previously, the work would be allocated to contractors, and the excess funds would be shared among some county officials, leaders, and brokers. That is why there is an outcry from the disgruntled cartels," said the governor.

Initially, the county has been floating tenders for rehabilitating rural access roads, some of which cost up to Sh6 million each, with over 500 per cent of the money reportedly going to brokers and unscrupulous officials who demand hefty kickbacks.

Corruption, Wamatangi said, has been thriving with the roads department paying over Sh900 million for road rehabilitation and maintenance works in the last regime adding that a senior officer intimated to him that genuine contracts only totaled Sh175 million for the total works.

"That could have been about Sh800 million loss by a single department in one year. But what we have adopted has eliminated brokers and other dealers because all we have to do is deploy equipment operated by our staff," said the governor.

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