Senate team wants former bosses prosecuted for running down water firm

Vihiga governor Wilber Ottichilo (front row, centre), on April 26, 2023 at the county headquarters in Mbala, after receiving a report of the taskforce that investigated Amatsi Water Services Company. [Brian Kisanji, Standard]

A senate committee is pushing the arrest and prosecution of former officials of a water company in Vihiga County accused of running down the firm.

The Senate Public Investments and Special Funds Committee want the local county government to initiate legal proceedings against the former officials of Amatsi Water Services Company (AWASCO), to address potential misappropriation of public funds at the firm.

The committee, whose chairman is Vihiga senator Godfrey Osotsi, on October 5, 2023, resolved that the former AWASCO managing director Collins Amuhaya and others should face legal action for playing a role in running down the water company.

Address various concerns

After the sitting led by interim chairman chairmanship and Kiambu Senator Karungo Thangwa and called to address various concerns at the water company, the committee stated in a statement: "The county government is to initiate legal proceedings to address any potential misappropriation of public funds. The former MD has been instructed to provide necessary documents within 90 days."

The Senate committee also recommended that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigate Amatsi company's finances during Amuhaya's tenure and that findings be submitted within 90 days.

Governor Wilber Ottichilo's administration has until December to implement a task force report earlier sanctioned by the committee in March after he was granted a 90-day extension period to complete the restructuring of the Amatsi Water Company.

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo responds to audit queries before the Senate County Public Investment Committee at KICC in Nairobi on October 5, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The governor had earlier formed a task force, on the recommendation of the senate committee, to look into the operations of AWASCO with the aim of advising him on measures to be implemented in order to transform the company and make it a self-sustaining entity.

The task force, chaired by one Mr Diru Magomere, handed over its findings to the governor on April 20, 2023.

However, five months later, the report has not been implemented with Osotsi calling on the county boss to hasten the process in order to address the plight of thousands of residents who are in dire need of clean drinking water.

Water company

Mr Osotsi commended the county government for efforts made to fix the mess at the water company but insisted that a lot more needed to be done.

"The senate lauds the county government's progress, specifically steps taken following recommendations made in March. This shows that soon, residents will see the changes taking effect," said Osotsi.

He added: "It is my duty, as the senator of Vihiga, to ensure our county's finances are managed transparently and with the best interest of our people at heart. I am committed to ensuring that our county is accountable to the people we serve."

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi during a sitting of the County Public Investments and Special Funds Committee KICC in Nairobi on June 16, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

When Ottichilo first appeared before the senate over the matter, the committee sought clarification and answers regarding AWASCO's financial statements and activities for financial years 2018/2019, 2019/2020, and 2020/2021 after the Office of the Auditor General raised queries over the management the water firm.

"When I raised the issue we found out that there were breaches of the Public Audit Act, 2015, particularly the delayed submissions from Amatsi Company's accounting officers," said Osotsi.

A raft of changes were expected to help water users around the county who are occasionally forced to go days without water in their taps whenever electricity is disconnected due to unpaid bills.

Institute changes

Dr Ottichilo who appeared before the senate committee committed to institute changes recommended in the task force report.

The report indicated that AWASCO had been grappling with a lack of capacity and that there were also technological gaps. There have been management challenges since the firm took over the function of supplying water to the residents, according to the report by the governor's task force.

It added: "Majority of the water schemes under its management are run in economically nonviable ways and not meeting their operational costs. In the event of a major breakdown, the schemes have inadequate technical expertise and financial resources to carry out repairs."

It further states: "Financial analysis indicates that if well managed, these schemes are capable of meeting costs of operation, rehabilitation and expansion."

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