The construction of a multimillion ultramodern office complex in Malindi, Kilifi County, for ward representatives has raised eyebrows among the locals.
The building works began in 2014 under the watch of then County Assembly Speaker Jimmy Kahindi and, once completed, the complex will contain a gym, jacuzzi, sauna, steam bath, three restaurants, a kitchen, lifts, 10 committee rooms, lounges and more than 60 offices.
Last week, the tender re-advertisement for the installation of one standby generator, water reticulation system, two passenger lifts, kitchen hood, gym equipment, jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath caused an uproar on social media, with locals criticising the project.
A number of people took to social media to criticise the project, demanding its suspension and the channelling of the funds to “more relevant projects”.
In August last year, then County Assembly Clerk Arnold Mkare, who is currently the county secretary, was forced to terminate the construction after Green County Ltd failed to meet the deadline and another bidder — Eden Homes — was picked.
Kilifi North MP Owen Baya, who has pledged to petition the Senate to investigate the project, said that to his knowledge, the county assembly “has never undertaken any public participation".
“Their assembly chamber rivals the National Assembly and the Senate chamber, which were refurbished at Sh500 million. Public participation is only witnessed in county executive projects,” he said.
Mr Baya, who is the former county secretary, said some projects had stalled due to lack of funds while the assembly led by Mr Kahindi had continued to put up a luxurious building at about Sh1 billion.
“The construction of a Sh500 million multimillion ultramodern hospital, water installation projects at Ganze and Governor Amason Kingi’s seed and fertiliser distribution project have almost stalled due to lack of funds,” he said.
He said the facility was not a priority for a county like Kilifi, which faces a lot of challenges, including drought and hunger.
“It is not about the money used in construction but the recurrent expenditure required for running it,” he said, adding that “running a gym will require instructors and a number of towels enough to run a five-star hotel. Kilifi cannot afford to operate the facility”.
He revealed that Governor Kingi refused to approve the construction in 2014, saying that it was not a priority despite the executive also demanding to construct another office block.
“I was present at Pride Inn Resort and I told the MCAs of the governor’s decision, but they threatened to impeach him and refuse to pass bills and budgets,” he said.
Mr Baya said the county gives the MCAs funds to build and manage their offices at the grassroots and that the construction of the facility would mean that they would have two offices.
“The speaker and his board went ahead to hire a consortium of consultants to approve the building and supervise the project after county engineers refused its approval,” he said, adding: “They are now paying engineers outside the county to approve the construction.
“The MCAs should stop holding Governor Kingi to ransom. The project never went through public participation and I will petition the Senate to investigate, especially its procurement and viability,” Mr Baya added.
He said that he would also ask the Senate to institute queries regarding construction of the Speaker’s official residence.