Governor Sonko’s stay in city hotel raises questions

Sunday November 5 2017

Governor Mike Sonko

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko quotes a bible verse during a prayer rally at Afraha stadium in Nakuru on October 22, 2017. He has been residing at a Nairobi hotel since July. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KIPCHUMBA SOME
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Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has in recent months raised eyebrows by operating from the presidential suite of a luxury hotel in the city.

On most days, Mr Sonko’s official convoy can be seen outside the Nairobi Safari Club where he attends to some of his visitors whenever he is not at his City Hall office.

But in response to Sunday Nation enquiries, Mr Sonko has said that he is paying from his own pocket for his four-month stay at the hotel in the iconic Lillian Towers that he added also served as his campaign headquarters for the August 8 General Election.

PUBLIC FUNDS
Since July, the governor has been occupying the presidential suite on the 16th floor of the hotel, which is located opposite the University of Nairobi.

He said the county government is not paying for his stay as the facility serves as his private office.

“I have not taken even a single cent from the county to pay for the room.

"Even the money to buy milk for tea in my office comes from my own pocket,” he told the Sunday Nation on Friday, alluding to the fact that the Treasury is yet to release money to county governments.

SPECIAL RATE
The hotel, on instructions of the governor and on the request of this reporter, provided receipts indicating that he has paid a total of Sh1,810,690 so far for his stay there.

On August 30, he paid Sh445,050 before another Sh708,905 on September 22 with the latest payment of Sh656,735 made on October 21.

The receipts indicate that the governor is paying Sh10,000 per day for his room. 

Mr Dan Okello, a manager at the hotel who provided the payment statement, said the governor is charged a special rate given his length of stay.

PURCHASE OF HOTEL
Even though the elections have long ended, he has continued to receive delegations at the hotel.

“I am meeting people here for my private businesses, which I don’t have to disclose to you,” he said when asked why he had continued to operate from the hotel.

The hotel is associated with prominent businessman Stanley Githunguri, who was the MP for Kiambaa constituency from 2007 to 2013.

But, in an interesting twist, Sonko revealed to the Sunday Nation that he was considering buying it.

“I sold my plot (of land) at the Coast recently and I am looking for some more money to buy it,” he said. “I have known Mzee (Mr Githunguri) for some time and he is a good friend of mine.”

COUNTY EXECUTIVE
He did not disclose how much he is buying the hotel for and we could not independently confirm if such a transaction was under consideration.

But Mr James Kimani, an independent property valuer in Nairobi, estimated the cost of such property at Sh1 billion given its strategic location in the city centre.

With its unique maize-cob shape, the Nairobi Safari Club is one of the iconic buildings in the city. It opened in 1984 as a members club.

In another curious link, Governor Sonko nominated the hotel’s General Manager Allan Igambi Esabwa to the post of county executive for Commerce, Tourism and Co-operatives.

He was recently vetted by the County Assembly and is awaiting approval.