SECTIONS

Stalled Western projects haunt governor hopefuls eyeing top jobs

 

A section of the stalled Vihiga Hospital plaza in Mbale town. [Courtesy]

Stalled projects could stand in the way of first-term governors seeking re-election in western Kenya in the August 9 election.

The incomplete facilities have caused friction between the county chiefs and their predecessors who initiated the projects and are looking to reclaim the seats.

Second-term governors whose flagship projects have stalled also appear to be walking a tight rope.

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo and Wycliffe Wangamati of Bungoma have indicated they will defend their seats in the polls.

However, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and his Busia counterpart, Mr Sospeter Ojaamong, will leave office after serving two terms.

Some projects initiated by both first-term and second-term governors have not been completed as earlier projected in Vihiga, Bungoma, Kakamega and Busia.

Mr Ottichilo was at pains explaining to the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee why some of the projects initiated in Vihiga in 2013 by his predecessor, the Rev Moses Akaranga, stalled.

They include the Sh250 million modern hospital plaza at Vihiga Referral Hospital that has stalled since 2019.

The construction of the 160-bed plaza was started in 2015 by Mr Akaranga and was relaunched by the incumbent in 2018. He promised to have it completed in two years.

Building of the Sh130 million official residences of the governor and his deputy was started in 2019 by Mr Ottichilo’s administration and should have taken a year.

Some Sh93 million was to be spent on the governor’s residence, while Sh50 million was to go towards the completion of the deputy governor’s residence.

Section of governor's residence under construction at Endeli village in Vihiga County [Courtesy]

Mr Ottichilo has partly blamed the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, which capped the spending on construction of governors’ residences. His administration also took issue with the National Construction Authority over delays in clearing the county’s building plans.

Other key projects that have run into headwinds include the Sh30 million oxygen plant at the Vihiga County Referral Hospital. This was launched in 2021.

The hitch was linked to power supply challenges at the referral hospital in Mbale town. In Kakamega, Governor Oparanya’s administration has embarked on the process to surrender the Sh6 billion County Teaching and Referral Hospital to the national government.

The contractor, China Railway Jiangsu Engineering (East Africa), abandoned the construction of the 750-bed capacity hospital in February last year over unpaid dues.

Mr Willis Opuka, the Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman, said all projects initiated by Mr Oparanya in 2013 and beyond will be financed to ensure their completion.

The projects feature in the 2013-23 County Integrated Development Plan. They include the Shinyalu tea factory, a maize processing plant in Lugari and a milk processing factory in Malava.

The county has proposed Sh1.58 billion for agriculture, out of which Sh391.05 million is for recurrent expenditure and Sh1.19 billion for development. The stalled Shinyalu tea factory was allocated Sh100 million in the 2021 financial year but nothing much has been done.

Residents have been demanding explanations from the county government over the stalled project.

In 2019, Governor Oparanya launched the construction of the Sh110 million milk processing plant at Tumbeni in Malava. The facility occupies an eight-acre plot. The project had earlier been allocated Sh50 million in the 2018/19 financial year but failed to take off.

Oparanya has promised to complete the project before leaving office. In Bungoma, the multimillion-shilling high training altitude centre project meant to nurture sports talents has also stalled. Governor Wangamati has been criticised for not prioritising the completion of the project initiated by his predecessor Mr Kenneth Lusaka.

The former governor said he would be making a comeback to complete the projects he initiated between 2013 and 2017.

But Mr Wangamati says his administration has done a lot in terms of development compared to what his predecessor achieved.

The county chief initiated the construction of the 6.5km Musikoma-Kanduyi dual carriageway to decongest Bungoma town at a cost of Sh1.3billion. His other projects include a 5,000-capacity Kanduyi stadium that cost Sh700 million.