For the two million residents of Nakuru, the pain of seeing their county sink into a pit of corruption and mismanagement of public resources in the first five years of devolution is something they would not like to be repeated in 2018.
While other counties with less resources have made remarkable steps since 2013, residents of County 32 have in the past four years been watching an open-air film dubbed: Nakuru’s Sinking Devolution Ship.
But with the change of guard that placed Governor Lee Kinyanjui at the helm, residents are hoping that things will change for the better.
The county is steeped in corruption, cash crisis, mounting debt of Sh3 billion and cartels that took the previous regime hostage.
A huge wage bill standing at nearly Sh6 billion a year, poor revenue collection, creaking healthcare system, collapsed agriculture sector and demotivated workforce are yet other challenges.
Mr Kinyanjui must address the high rate of youth unemployment, decaying infrastructure and marginalisation of some communities.
The majority of residents talk of a near 100 per cent confidence rating for the governor. He should quickly take advantage of this and turn around the county’s fortunes.
Mr Kinyanjui has launched several development activities to resuscitate the county. “There is light at the end of the tunnel if the revival activities are anything to go by,” said Mr Joseph Monda, the national chairman of Pyrethrum Growers Association (PGA) and a resident of Molo sub-county.
A feeling of renewed hope is also palpable in the other 10 sub-counties.
The governor has started a radical surgery of the county government by ushering in a new team comprising young, brilliant leaders from the private sector and the national government.
Based on his track record as MP for Nakuru Town and national chairman of National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), there is high hope that he will work a miracle and put the county back on the fast lane of development.
“My stint in office has been greatly affected by the national political environment. But I have settled down and established the critical offices for service delivery. The planning of critical areas like health, agriculture and education has also been ongoing. We are on the verge of take-off,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
He added that top on his list is revival of the ailing multibillion-shilling pyrethrum sub-sector and establishment of an airport.
“We have already partnered with pyrethrum stakeholders to restore confidence in the sector and have established seed nurseries to provide clean planting materials,” he said.
On the airport project which has been pending for more than a decade, he disclosed that he would make a major announcement in the next two weeks. “The progress made in the past two months is encouraging. Soon, residents will know the fate of the project,” he said.
He added that the challenges he has been tackling include lack of existing systems that can support a development agenda. “Absence of such systems creates cartels and other parasitic layers that compromise service delivery,” he said.
To tame runaway corruption, he said a stringent anti-corruption policy would be put in place.
He said he would set up a task force to determine the authenticity of the Sh3 billion debt and address concerns on value for money.
“Unsupported and inflated claims will be isolated and appropriate action taken against the people liable. Genuine and verifiable claims will be paid in accordance with the laid down procedures.”
On the Sh6 billion wage bill, he said a human resource audit to establish the number of workers, their skills, deployment and training would commence this month.
“This will give a framework for making critical decisions on the work force,” he said, adding that staff due to retire will be gradually phased out and energetic employees engaged. “A succession plan must be implemented in critical departments to avoid laxity in service delivery when workers retire.”
The governor said he would not abandon development projects started by his predecessor.