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Governor Cleophas Lagat attends launch of 'ghost water project'

RIFT VALLEY
By Rael Jelimo | January 28th 2016
A water reservoir in Chemundu Ward, Nandi County, that residents claim was repainted by a contractor whom the county government had awarded a Sh4.5 million tender to construct a new facility. [PHOTO: RAEL JELIMO]

It was supposed to be a day of great joy for residents of Kapkobis and neighbouring villages. Governor Cleophas Lagat was expected to visit the village to launch Chemundu Water Project and herald a new era for the village.

But when the governor arrived at Kapkobis last weekend, he saw no joy in the eyes of the villagers. There was only anger.

Soon he learned why the residents were not amused by his Sh4.5 million water tank. The bitter truth is that there was no such a tank.

The only tank that was there, and which his administration purports to have put up with the Sh4.5 million, was built 40 years ago by President Jomo Kenyatta's regime. The county government had been taken to the cleaners.

Well, to give credit where it's due, there was something new about the tank; it had been given a new coat of blue paint. But that was all.

This was an embarassing moment for the county administration and the Water Executive John Chumo and Water Director Busieney were hard pressed to explain to angry Chemundu residents how Sh4.5 million was spent on the 'ghost' project.

After the beans were spilt, the situation threatened to spin out of control and the meeting was cut short.

"This water project was completed in 1975. We are surprised the county government now claims it as one of its projects," said Simion arap Mutai, a village elder.

The sad thing is that this is not the only "ghost water project" on which the county has lost money.

According to rights groups led by Nandi Transparency Group, there are several other "ghost water projects" which the governor has been misled into launching by senior water officials and Members of the County Assembly (MCAs). The county has consequently lost hundreds of millions of shillings to the ghost water projects.

The county administration has earmarked provision of water as one of its main areas of focus and, three years ago, set aside Sh1 billion for the projects.

"What happened in Chemundu has been going on for months. The governor has been misled into launching many ghost water projects across Nandi," said Transparency Group chairman Kiprotich Cherargey.

Rights groups are now wondering how the Nandi water department has spent the funds that were meant to provide water to the county residents.

Mr Cherargey listed Ainamng'etik, Kipsutaiywo, Lessos, Chepkiit, Kapkeben, Iruru among a dozen other ghost water projects.

"MCAs are colluding with water officials and contractors to defraud the county of hundreds of millions of shillings in non-existent water projects," he alleged.

The activists said in the Temso Water Project in Kapsimotwo Ward a tank was constructed but there was no water source nearby.

"During the launch of the Kapsimotwo Water Project water was poured into the tank to mislead the governor into believing that water was running to the taps," Cherargey said.

He added: "The taps have remained dry, where the tank stands, useless without a source of water or piping network to feed it."

The activists further allege that Kipsutaiywa Water Project in Lelmokwo was adopted by a contractor as a county project, although it was initiated and completed by Lake Victoria Water Services Board.

"Civil groups have made and presented over 75 petitions in the past three years to different government bodies including the office of the governor, county assembly, Senate, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission among others," they said, adding that no one has bothered to take action.

A recent petition by the activists to the Senate saw Lagat interrogated over ghost water projects, in particular Temso Water Project.

Lagat has since promised to investigate projects and warned that county officials who will be found culpable will be punished.

Efforts by The Standard to reach the county Water CEC and director bore no fruit as their phones went unanswered.

Lagat confirmed there is a problem with one of the projects, but said defended the other projects.

"I have reliable officials investigating the Chemundu Water Project at Kapkobis, the county will provide an answer to this issue. Rogue contractors and county officials will face the sack in the event the project funds were indeed misused," he warned.

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