Nairobi County on the spot over poor services despite Sh24bn boost

Sunday January 24 2016

The National Youth Service team at the Dandora dumpsite in January, 2016. The Nairobi County government is stumbling from crisis to crisis and seems overwhelmed by garbage. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The National Youth Service team at the Dandora dumpsite in January, 2016. The Nairobi County government is stumbling from crisis to crisis and seems overwhelmed by garbage. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By VINCENT ACHUKA
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The Nairobi County government is increasingly finding itself on the spot over its questionable performance, just seven years after the capital reportedly reclaimed its place as the city in the sun.

The city has in recent months been in a state of near anarchy owing to deterioration of basic services despite the huge revenue collected.

This is causing consternation over the city’s priorities as corruption cartels and goons appear to be increasing their vice-grip.

On Tuesday, the county chief of staff, Mr George Wainaina, was charged with attempting to bribe Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko with Sh1 million to drop a suit he had filed aimed at reverting the ownership of a plot from a developer to the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company.

Mr Wainaina, in turn, claims in a suit that Mr Sonko was soliciting a Sh7 million bribe to withdrawal the case, which claim the senator has not responded to in court.

A day earlier, the head of operations at the inspectorate, Mr Protus Sarara, and a sergeant in the department, Mr Julius Ochieng, were arraigned in court over the death of a number of hawkers in the city.

Two weeks ago, the county government had to contract the National Youth Service (NYS) to collect garbage after public outcry made Governor Evans Kidero order county secretary Gregory Mwakanongo, acting finance chief officer Luke Gatimu and treasury head Morris Okere to resign.

Also fired on Thursday was environmental chief officer Leah Oyake in what appears to be a fire fighting measure as Nairobians continue to vent their frustrations on social site Twitter.

On Wednesday, a report released by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said Nairobi collected Sh11.6 billion last year as revenue.

This was Sh1.6 billion higher than the previous year. Among the 47 counties, Nairobi tops in revenue collection.

But as revenue collection increases, leaders and residents say service delivery is on the decline, with the county government stumbling from one crisis to another.

The latest is the pile-up of garbage at alarming levels.

“There is a lot of talk but nothing is happening. The county government is interested only in collecting revenue,” says David Gachuru, chairman of the Nairobi City County Business Association.

The CBD is clogged with hawkers, boda bodas, street families, taxis and matatus, while the open space at the Tom Mboya statue on Moi Avenue has been turned into an open-air market.

Matatus, notorious for flouting rules, are increasingly getting bolder, picking up and dropping passengers at undesignated areas. Taxis and boda bodas have turned almost every parking slot into a rank.

New bus stops crop up daily, choking roads in the eastern part of the CBD — mostly Tom Mboya Street. Consequently, most roads are chaotic during the rush hour, with pedestrians, street families, hawkers and beggars all competing for space.

The western side of the city is also witnessing a steady increase in unregulated boda boda parking lots.

ALLOCATION OF TERMINUS

But the governor says allocation of terminuses has nothing to do with him.

“Designated matatu terminuses were gazetted by the former Ministry of Local Government in 2000. The county doesn’t allocate terminuses. If, for instance, you buy a matatu, it has to be licensed by NTSA. Thereafter, it is supposed to operate from the designated terminus,” he says.

“Nairobi City County is constructing matatu terminuses outside the CBD, namely on Murang’a Road, Ngara Road, Park Road, Pangani centre and Desai Road,” he says.

Although the city inherited many problems from the old City Council, it is hard to explain the current state of affairs.

Dr Kidero was voted into office mainly because of his high-profile career in the corporate world.

His manifesto was based on seven pillars: Water and sanitation; transport, housing and infrastructure; security, education and youth development, enterprise development and governance.

During his first press conference on March 9, 2013, he said he would dedicate his first 100 days in office to cleaning up the city and “introducing order so as to make the capital attractive to investment.”

But most of his grand ideas — like the proposal to construct 100,000 new housing units to replace ageing estates such as Bahati, Mbotela, Ziwani, Makongeni, Kaloleni, Jericho and Shauri Moyo — have been unfulfilled nearly three years later.

Makadara MP Bernard Mutura accuses the county government of playing public relations. Most of the ageing county government houses fall under Makadara.

“If the county is unable to perform simple tasks like collecting garbage or cleaning the drainage systems, where will it get Sh300 billion to construct houses for a whole constituency?” he asks.

Roysambu North MP Waihenya Ndirangu, who was recently in the news after leading his constituents to demolish properties built on several parcels of public land in his constituency, accuses the county administration of colluding with land grabbers.

Other initiatives by the county government have fallen flat, or have been retracted after they backfired. Last April, a decision to ban right turns and close five round-abouts on Mombasa Road and Waiyaki Way backfired after the move caused even more traffic snarl-ups.

Similarly, the county government last year divided the city into seven zones and assigned each to private companies to collect garbage and maintain cleanliness. 

But for the last two weeks uncollected garbage is at alarming levels, which has forced the national government to intervene via the NYS.

Senator Mike Sonko says all this is due to loss of control and weakness in planning.

“People are dumping garbage and flouting rules because the county government has made it appear normal. It is like no one is in control,” he says.

Owing to poor service delivery, the business community in Eastleigh North ward, led by local MCA Osman Adow, recently said they would not pay taxes to the county government until it paid attention to them.

Waste and Environment Management Association of Kenya (Wemak), an umbrella organisation of companies involved in waste management business, says City Hall should be blamed for the mess.

The sad state of affairs has made city residents ridicule the governor on social sites.

Others have taken their anger to the streets, with residents of Mwiki, Embakasi and Baraka estates protesting publicly in the past five months.

In Mwiki, it took several protests over the poor state of Kasarani-Mwiki Road to get the governor’s attention last September. The road is currently under construction.

Mr John Gakuo — perhaps the most popular town clerk in the former the city council — says zero tolerance to corruption is the key.

During his time, dropping even a sweet wrapper in the streets would earn you a day in court and matatus were not allowed to pick up or drop passengers in the CBD.

In addition to Sh11.6 billion collected as revenue last year, Nairobi received Sh12.7 billion from the national government, up from Sh11.3 billion it received the previous financial year.

But in his last report, Auditor-General Edward Ouko said several millions could not be accounted for.