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Ghosts of Sh66m office project return to haunt ex-MPs, officials

Western
 The six-storey Lurambi NG-CDF office. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

The ghosts of the stalled multi-million Lurambi National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) project have returned to haunt two former MPs and their fund managers.

The construction of the six-storey Lurambi NG-CDF office at the heart of Kakamega town was started in 2008 by MP Manyala Keya at a cost of Sh66 million. The block was supposed to house more than 12 offices upon completion.

At the time, Manyala lost his seat to Raphael Otaalo in 2013, when it was incomplete and it's said Sh52 million had already been spent on the project.

Instead of completing it, it's alleged that Mr Otaalo took the remaining Sh14 million and constructed a new NG-CDF office at Eshisiru trading centre, five kilometres away from Kakamega town.

Otaalo was defeated by Titus Khamala in the 2017 polls. Khamala successfully defended his seat in the last polls.

 Manyala Keya started the Lurambi NG-CDF office in 2008 at a cost of Sh66 million. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

At one point, the building was handed over to the County Government of Kakamega in 2014 but Mr Khamala repossessed it in 2020 and started construction works afresh.

The National Assembly Decentralised Funds Accounts Committee has launched investigations to unearth why the project stalled yet the money allocated to it has all been spent.

Led by the Kilifi Women Representative Gertrude Mbeyu who is the committee vice chairperson, the lawmakers put to task former fund managers, Robert Serem and Thomas Onthweka as well as Humphrey Tieni (current fund manager) to explain what happened.

Other committee members present were Stephen Mogaka (West Mugirango), Martin Wanyonyi (Webuye East), David Mwalika (Kitui Rural), and Innocent Momanyi (Bobasi) among others.

The committee is chaired by Gideon Mutemi, Mwingi Central MP.

In a heated session, the MPs demanded to be given the bill of quantities that gives clear estimates of the project, which the fund managers had but with glaring gaps.

 Raphael Otaalo (right). He constructed a new NG-CDF office at Eshisiru trading centre. [Chrispen Sechere, Standard]

"We came for an inspection visit to know how much of the taxpayers' money was misappropriated. Its true money was lost and from our estimates, around Sh82 million has been spent on the project but there's no value for it," said Ms Mbeyu, the committee vice chairperson

"We also want to know who was the first and second contractor, who was handed the tender to construct the building and ended up doing shoddy work," Mbeyu said everyone culpable of looting money meant for the stalled NG-CDF office will be brought to book.

Wanyonyi said that they will ensure those involved account for every coin that was spent on the project since 2008, noting that those found culpable will be prosecuted or forced to refund all money.

"We must ensure that NG-CDF projects are not used as a cash cow by those managing them," said Wanyonyi.

Mr Khamala said he only takes responsibility for works done from 2017 to date.

He said he repossessed the building from the county in 2020 after the latter failed to honour part of the bargain.

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