Meru County Government's plan to hand over to private investors various businesses it has been operating as a semi-autonomous management entity has drawn criticism.
Some of the investments started by former governor Peter Munya's administration and now under the Meru County Investment and Development Corporation (MCIDC), are being handed to private investors.
Governor Kiraitu Murungi's administration plans to surrender the projects to private investors, arguing the government is not good at doing business.
According to county officials tasked with the plan, the county government is not well-placed to conduct business even under the MCIDC and it would rather surrender them to the private sector.
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The MCIDC managed entities include a petrol station called Meru County Oils, an agro-food processor, tea farms and the Leopard Rock Lodge, once a top tourist hotel inside the Meru National Park.
It has also taken over the Sh50 million Kanyekine fish factory and floated a tender in its bid to turn around its fortunes.
The new privatisation plan, according to Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu, who also runs the Finance docket and MCIDC CEO Kenneth Ruteere, is geared towards achieving efficiency in the institutions.
However, senior officials in the administration of the previous governor poured cold water on the bid to privatise the entity, arguing it defeated the original purpose of job creation for locals and income generation.
Ntuchiu, however, said sometimes governments were not good at running businesses, hence the need to look for investors with the capacity to focus all their efforts in efficiently and effectively running them.
He said the county did not want to continue running the petrol station located at Mwendantu in the Meru central business district, opting to let an investor take over and pay rent and relevant taxes.
“We want to get out of trading or competing with the private sector. Let us earn money from the rent. The same applies to Kanyekine fish factory. Our goal is to have investors who can run the businesses efficiently, while taking care of interests of communities around them,” Ntuchiu added.
But Joel Imitira, who was MCIDC CEO during Munya’s tenure, and Julius Kimathi, the former County Secretary, said the privatisation plan went against the original idea, adding that the projects were to generate money for the government to fund its various projects.
“The petrol station was saving the county a lot of money in fuel costs, and earning much-needed revenue. This is in addition to creating job opportunities for our people,” said Imitira.
He added that even the national government was earning a lot of income from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), and it had a stake in major corporations.
Kimathi said: “Munya wanted to save county money when he started the petrol station and through the microfinance bank, to give locals an opportunity to circumvent commercial banks’ high interest rates.”