Sakaja grilled over expertise of staff in firefighting team

Nairobi Firefighting crew battle to put off a fire in a previous incident. [File, Standard]

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja was on Monday grilled on the qualifications of some employees at City Hall.

Sakaja, who was appearing before the Senate’s County Public Accounts Committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’, was accompanied by Chief Officer for Disaster Management Bramwell Simiyu.

They were taken to task to explain whether some officers who work at the fire department in the Nairobi County Disaster Management Unit have the requisite qualifications.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna revealed that two employees had degrees in theology and quizzed Sakaja and Simiyu on whether they were suited to hold their positions.

“We are doing this because we intend to help you to reallocate these resources in a manner that will be most efficient for the people of Nairobi,” Mr Sifuna said.

The senators also raised questions about two other firefighters said to hold degrees in Library Studies and Tours and Travels, respectively.

“There is a mismatch of skills in your department, and we bring this up not because we have anything against you or against these officers. They could be useful in other departments,” Sifuna said.

But Simiyu defended the employees, stating that they hold “junior positions far from policy-making positions”.

“Those are people who were recently employed and in junior positions. The guys we have at the top are qualified and experienced, some of them with masters in disaster management and investigations.”

He added, “It is unfortunate that the senators wanted to bring an image that people we have are unqualified. Like the police, people in fire departments are recruited with different qualifications and taken through paramilitary training.”

On why the staff hold degrees in theology, Simiyu explained that firefighters “go through a lot of traumatic experiences and sometimes need to be encouraged”.

“We operate like the military which has a chaplain. At the same time, we need librarians because we deal with data and must have systems aligned with disaster management applications thus everyone is important,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sakaja, who was recently fined for skipping several sessions, appeared on the day that President William Ruto was visiting flood victims in Mathare slums.

He was put to task to shed light on how the county paid an additional Sh72 million above the contract sum on staff medical insurance.

Kajwang tasked the county chief to give the names of the staff who were covered in the medical schemes so that they could be used as evidence.

Kajwang also sought to understand if the money was meant to cover new employees or if it was part of kickbacks.

The county finance boss, who had accompanied the governor and other members from the executive, could not answer the question, only stating that the money was spent during the tenure of past regimes.

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