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Union calls for Wa Iria's arrest as water wars escalate

Wednesday August 29 2018

Mwangi Wa Iria

Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By COLLINS OMULO
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An umbrella county workers' union wants Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria arrested for allegedly committing assault and destroying the property of water companies in the county.

The Kenya County Governments Workers Union (KCGWU) has asked IG Joseph Boinnet to make sure Wa Iria is charged if it is found that he hired goons to commit these crimes on Monday.

PROTESTS

The county chief dissolved water boards last year and appointed a caretaker committee to run the companies, whose officials were accused of poor performance.

Days ago, Wa Iria replaced businessman Peter Munga, who had served 16 years as chairman of the Murang’a Water and Sanitation Company (Muwasco), and appointed Environmentalist Joseph Kimura as interim chair.

Protests followed the announcement, in Gazette Notice No 8391 of August 15, and matters worsened on Tuesday when workers found the gates to the premises locked.

Mr Roba Duba, who is KCGWU Secretary-General, accused the Governor of forcefully attempting to take over five water companies in the county, contrary to the law.

Mr Duba claimed the Murang'a boss chased staff members away and vandalised properties.

“We want the Inspector General to arrest Governor Wa Iria for abusing his office and vandalising properties. He has to record a statement and be charged,” the Secretary General told a press conference at the Union’s offices in Nairobi on Wednesday.

COURT ACTION

Mr Duba also said the lobby will pursue the matter through relevant agencies.

The former Moyale MP said they will go to court on Thursday as the five companies are registered under the Companies Act and fall under the Water ministry. He pointed out that decisions concerning them can only be made by the county in consultation with the national government.

The Secretary-General also pointed out that Wa Iria has no legal authority to close a public office as he is "just a trustee and not the owner of such offices".

“This is abuse of his power and office. We will not take it. Workers belong to a union and we must respect that. The boards have been constituted in accordance with the law. Any takeover can only be done under the law."

NO POLITICS

KCGWU Organizing secretary Matilda Chebet said it was unlawful for the Governor to make changes without consulting company shareholders.

She called for the government's intervention, warning that politicisation of water matters will hurt service delivery to residents and erode 10-year reforms in the sector.

Two days ago, Wa Iria invited the management of Muwasco to his office and announced that he would absorb the employees into the county Public Service Board.

The secretary said: “Workers have been told to report to the county secretary while their terms of engagement have not been clearly spelt out. This has made the companies concerned. There is also a court case which the Governor has chosen to ignore."

The Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company secretary added that Water Act, 2002 prevents people from "just waking up and charging tariffs" that have not been approved by Water Services Regulatory Board.