In a case of reversed roles, Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati has turned the heat on members of the county assembly and now wants the county government dissolved.
The governor has consequently launched a campaign to collect signatures from residents to have the county government dissolved over what he terms “endless squabbles” between the executive and MCAs.
Mr Wangamati argues that the unending wrangles had adversely affected service delivery and dissolving the county was the only option left.
If successful, the push could force MCAs and the governor to go back to the people to seek fresh mandate through an election.
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So far, forms on which the locals are supposed to append their signatures have been distributed across the 45 wards in the county.
In the event majority of registered voters sign the petition, then Wangamati will petition President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the county and pave way for fresh elections.
Bungoma County has 559,850 registered voters and Wangamati must collect at least 55,985 signatures accounting for 10 per cent of the voters to meet the threshold to petition the president to dissolve the county as provided for in the law.
“Already, we have collected over 60,000 signatures from the legitimately registered voters, but we want to ensure we have at least 120,000 before the end of this week. This is to ensure when we take the signatures for verification by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), we will still meet the minimum requirement of dissolving the county,” said a senior employee of the county who sought anonymity.
Governor Wangamati avers that the MCAs are being used by external forces to frustrate his administration, thus paralysing the operations of the devolved unit.
The governor has listed the impeachment of his executives as the main reason for wanting to dissolve the county.
Already, Antony Walela (Health) and Richard Sabwami (Public Administration) have been impeached by MCAs. Dr Walela was implicated in the controversial purchase of the 600 hand-washing jerrycans at a cost of Sh10,000 each to help in curbing the spread of coronavirus disease.
More officers could be on the chopping board, including Chirasa Makanda (Agriculture), Esther Wamalwa (Finance), Collins Mukhongo (Roads and Infrastructure) and Renson Makheti (Environment).
“The top county officials lined up for impeachment hold key departments that you cannot run a county without. We are unable to operate as we have been crippled by the MCAs and that is why the governor thought it right to have the county dissolved,” argued another county official.
Wangamati, in his dissolution memorandum, has further stated that the MCAs are under instructions not to pass the budget allocated for the Health docket to complete the construction of the new 300-bed capacity Bungoma County Referral and Sirisia hospitals and the face-lifting of health facilities across the county.
“They have instructions not to pass the budget meant for the completion of the Musikoma-Kanduyi dual carriage way that is constructed at a cost Sh1.3 billion as well as the Webuye-Brigadier road which is under construction,” said a county executive official.
He claimed they want to re-allocate the money meant for the milk processing plant in Webuye, saying once the projects are stalled, Wangamati’s competitors will use it as a campaign tool to ascend to power.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the governor has not chosen the route of dissolution out of luxury. Truth be said, the option is not the easiest. His decision is a choice between what is convenient and what is right for the people of Bungoma,” said Tim Machi, Bungoma County Communications Director.
Wafula Wakoli, an associate of Senator Moses Wetang’ula, claimed that the county was using public participation, bursary and fertiliser beneficiaries list to get the signatures as well as giving out between Sh300 to Sh1,000.
Wangamati together with Wafula Wamunyinyi (Kanduyi MP) and Tongaren’s Eseli Simiyu, recently planned to oust Wetang’ula as Ford Kenya party leader over claims he was frustrating his administration and was unable to unite party members.
Wangamati said as a county government, they have the responsibility to serve the people wherever they are, noting it was the letter and spirit of the Constitution that created devolution, and any entity that abdicates this responsibility loses the legitimacy to exist and operate as government.
“All projects risk stalling because of an assembly that has a puppeteer in the shadows commanding them to ensure no cent is allocated to these projects,” said the county boss.