Assembly rejects plan to build Elgeyo Marakwet governor's house

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Efforts by Elgeyo Marakwet County executive to construct a governor’s official residence have flopped a second time, six years after a Sh56 million mansion was abandoned.

This is after the County Assembly rejected the latest attempt to build residences for the governor and two other houses for the deputy governor and assembly speaker at Sh115 million during this financial year.

Under the proposal that has been rejected, the Executive was to abandon the Sh56 million stalled official governor’s residence, which was constructed near the iconic Kamariny Stadium in Iten town.

The official residence had gobbled up Sh13.8 million before it was abandoned after locals rejected the move, according to the Auditor-General.

While rejecting the proposal by acting County Finance Executive Kevin Biwott, the assembly said there were no adequate funds to construct the residences.

According to Biwott, construction of the new governor’s residence was to cost Sh45 million, and the deputy governor and speaker’s houses Sh35 million.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos. [David Njaaga, Standard]

The finance executive had, on June 25, asked the assembly’s budget and appropriations committee to consider the proposal during deliberations of the budget estimates for this financial year.

“The Finance Executive appeared before the Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations on June 25, 2021, to give his views on budget estimates, which were submitted by the County Executive on April 30, 2021,” committee chairman John Yator said.

Biwott told the House that he was planning to fund the residential project using savings from Ward Development Projects allocations, which came after the approval of the 2021 County Fiscal Strategy Paper (CFSP).

However, in a report, the budget committee rejected the plan, citing a lack of funds.

“The proposal costing Sh115 million is not approved as recommended by the relevant Sectoral Committees due to lack of funds. The proposed costs for these projects as proposed by the Department of Finance and Economic Planning had already been tied to the development projects of the wards as approved under Annual Development Plans for FY 21/22.”

Meanwhile, at the abandoned construction site, materials are rusting away, while others have been destroyed by ants.

The ground floor of the one-storey official residence had been constructed before the contractor left the site following opposition from locals, who claimed that public participation was never carried out. The plan was later halted by a court order.

The plan aborted after Sh13.8 million had already been spent by the end of the 2015/2016 financial year, according to an audit report.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Governor Alex Tolgos had said he would prefer to live in his private residence in the neighbouring Uasin Gishu County after locals rejected the project. He travels to and from Uasin Gishu County to attend to county duties in Iten.

According to the Auditor General report in both 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 financial years, a tender for construction of the residence was awarded to the firm at a sum of Sh56,739,518.

“As reported in the previous year, an amount of Sh13,873,301.50 was paid to a construction company in respect of proposed construction of the governor’s residence at Kamariny,” an audit report stated.

Last year, Governor Tolgos and his deputy Wisley Rotich were summoned by the Senate Public Accounts Committee to explain the delays in the construction of the official residence.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission had given counties until June 2019 to establish official residence for governors, as it planned to phase out house allowances for the county chiefs.