Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua’s troubles started with skewed appointment of his executive team. It got worse with fake academic papers scandal against one of his executives, and reached a critical mass when the county assembly unearthed an illegal staff recruitment scam.
Mbugua’s administration has since inception been bedeviled by a litany of problems that have either ended up denting his image or impacting negatively on service delivery.
Despite the scandals, the Governor remains silent and only acts after intense and persistent pressure from the public and leaders.
The latest scandal is the illegal recruitment of over 180 employees, which has led to loss of Sh261 million paid in form of salaries.
Following the illegal recruitment, the county government is unable to employ doctors, nurses, nursery school teachers and village administrators who are needed at the grassroots level.
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County Assembly Majority Leader George Mwaura says they were forced to freeze recruitment of staff for 12 months due to the ballooning wage bill that has shot to Sh5.2 billion.
“This is way above what the Office of the Controller of Budget has recommended that county governments should spend a maximum of 35 per cent of the total budget on salaries for staff,” Mwaura says.
A County Assembly special ad hoc committee, which investigated the illegal recruitment, implicated two top county government officials and some members of the County Public Service Board.
The committee’s report adopted by the assembly recommended sacking of County Secretary Joseph Motari, Public Service Chief Officer Philip Sigei and the 180 illegally recruited workers.
Governor Mbugua is yet act on the report, despite an earlier court order that restrained him from acting on the recommendations being lifted by the court. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has formally written to the assembly, asking to be given the ad hoc committee's report.
Mbugua says he has no reservations whatsoever in seeking a second term based on his development score card. The governor says those claiming his government has done nothing are dishonest.
“Within three years, we have brought immense and tangible development in all the 55 wards in our county. Those claiming we have done nothing are not honest and although some projects are underway, we will definitely deliver them,” he says.
Mbugua has twice appeared before the Senate to defend his administration against claims of misappropriation of funds and a bloated workforce that has made it difficult for him to focus on development projects.
The County Assembly is this week expected to receive and debate a report implicating some top officers in alleged illegal allocation of parking bays adjacent to a prestigious hotel.
The officers allegedly surrendered the parking slots to the hotel for use by its customers, whom they exempted from paying parking charges in exchange for another plot within the Nakuru Central Business District, which the county officials irregularly allocated to a private developer.
The developer remains mysterious and it is suspected that top county officials assigned themselves the plot. The county is said to have lost over Sh3 million in revenue in the deal.
The deal was, however, cancelled after a public outcry and the assembly has been probing the matter. Sources at the assembly intimidated that the report recommends the sacking of some of the top officers implicated in the scandal.
The governor’s woes started soon after he was sworn into office, when the county assembly rejected some of the people he had nominated for appointment as members of the County Executive Committee. The assembly said the nominees had not met the minimum requirements as stipulated by the law. The county government operated with only four out of 10 executives for six months.
Hardly after the problem was resolved, Mbugua’s administration found itself in another storm, when The Standard on Sunday exposed one of his executives, Sam Gitau, for having submitted fake academic certificates. Although Gitau finally left office, a recent report by the Auditor General revealed that he had continued drawing salary.
Mbugua's administration suffered another integrity test when complaints were raised against Lands Executive Rachael Maina over alleged fraud while serving as a settlement officer in Nyandarua County. Ms Maina was accused of allocating land to her underage daughter.
The Auditor General’s report further indicated that the county government had irregularly diverted Sh600 million disbursed by the national government as a conditional grant for the expansion and upgrading of the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital to a level five hospital.
The money was instead used to pay workers’ salaries and meet other recurrent expenditure. The Auditor General had also stated that the county government had failed to produce log books for vehicles it had bought. Some of the vehicles had private registration numbers.
The growing discontentment among the residents of Nakuru came into the open when in April this year, Governor Mbugua was heckled by a crowd that had turned up to welcome President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto in Nakuru town.
Mr Ruto had invited the governor to address the gathering, when the crowd shouted and heckled him, leaving him tongue-tied as the President and the DP watched in disbelief. The governor later blamed the heckling on his opponents whom he said were using “guerilla tactics to ambush and intimidate me”.
Later last year, a team of detectives from the EACC raided the homes of county government’s Finance Executive Anne Njenga and another officer in the finance department. The detectives said they were acting on information that the duo had accumulated sudden wealth and they wanted to carry out a lifestyle audit on them.
Last year, the county government was in the news when it was accused of using members of the outlawed Mungiki sect to relocate hawkers from Nakuru town’s CBD.
The gang destroyed hundreds of kiosks and other makeshift structures used by the hawkers in night operations. Mungiki members allegedly extorted money from traders to allocate them stalls.
And in March this year, Mbugua found himself in another trouble when he attended the burial of an alleged Mungiki gang leader, lending credence to his dalliance with the sect.
Despite all these, Mbugua has never acted on issues raised despite threatening to bring down its administration. Those who know him for long say they found the governor to be indecisive.
According to former Nakuru District Commissioner, James Mwaura, who has known the governor since their time at the provincial administration, says he finds him “unable to make decisions independently”.
Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot says Nakuru residents made a great mistake by electing Mbugua as their governor.
“It is clear. It was a mistake to elect someone aloof. He does not get touched by the plight of its people,” says Cheruiyot.
NACADA Chairman John Mututho says Nakuru County is headed into oblivion, with Mr Mbugua at the helm. He says Mbugua's administration had nothing to write home about.