Power, tender wars at the centre of Nairobi County crisis

Monday January 15 2018

Deputy President William Ruto with Governor Mike Sonko

Deputy President William Ruto with (from left) Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, Nairobi Speaker Beatrice Elachi and Nairobi deputy governor Polycarp Igathe. Mr Igathe resigned as deputy governor. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION 

COLLINS OMULO
By COLLINS OMULO
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Differences in tendering, accusations of collusion with State House to usurp powers, and battle for control of operations at City Hall contributed to the short-lived political marriage between Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his deputy Polycarp Igathe, the Nation has learnt.

This came as Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said there were plans by county’s elected leaders to reach out to Mr Igathe to try and convince him to rescind his decision to resign.

“We (Nairobi leaders) will discuss the matter. Also, senators know there are clauses that are not clear (on filling of the deputy governor’s position) and we are looking into it so that Nyeri County can get a deputy governor. In Nairobi, if we will not be able to bring the two together, we will move on,” said Mr Sakaja in Kiambu on Saturday.

Even though the reign of Mr Sonko and his deputy started on a strong path, this was short-lived.

STEP DOWN

“I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the governor to enable me to drive the administration and management of the county. Without fear, favour or ill will I step down,” he had said.

Mr Sonko had promised to only run the political affairs at City Hall while his deputy was to deal with planning and policies.

According to a source close to Mr Igathe, the first sign of mistrust and acrimony occurred when the deputy governor approached his boss with a proposal to terminate the Sh23.2 million contract awarded to Web Tribe Ltd, Jambo Pay’s parent company, which was collecting parking revenue, and award to it to another firm.

This was in line with their manifesto in which they promised to cancel the Jambo Pay contract within 100 days in office after Auditor-General Edward Ouko faulted the tendering process, saying the company won the tender even though it was not one of the lowest bidders.

JAMBO PAY DEAL

The source said the governor received the proposal but rather than act on their pledge, he continued with the Jambo Pay deal. “When he went back to the governor to inquire about the proposal, Mr Sonko told him off and he was told Jambo Pay will continue offering services,” said the source.

Later there was a tussle over an award of tender for garbage collection for which the source claimed the two were vouching for separate entities.

Mr Igathe lost once again with the contract going to Sonko Rescue Team, a non-charitable organisation which is a brainchild of the governor and has been in operation since 2015 and had been running the “Operation Ng’arisha Jiji” campaign.

Although the amount of money at stake in the tender was not revealed, garbage collection is a lucrative multi-billion shilling business in Nairobi with a point in case being in 2004 when an Italian company, Jacorossi Impresse, was awarded a Sh3.5 billion contract which later hit a brick wall. It is estimated that the contract is nowadays in the north of Sh20 billion.

PENDING BILLS

The next battlefront was on the payment of pending bills and contractors that were undertaking various projects. The pending bills stood at Sh58 billion as was revealed by the governor during his address at the opening of the county assembly in September.

The source said Mr Igathe wanted the bills paid without audit while the governor wanted an audit as he considered the amount high, an overruling that irked Mr Igathe. “The governor said if they went ahead with the payments without audit then the county might be left with nothing to run its operations,” said the source.

There was also the message revelation where the governor shared 23 screenshots of his conversations with his deputy. Mr Sonko only made one-word replies, laying bare differences in priorities between the two.

CONTRACTORS

“Your Excellency, request these market contractors to get paid. I visited the projects and if paid they can be completed before end of year,” wrote Mr Igathe in one message

He later reminded him: “Your excellency, I beg that we pay markets and ICT contractors so work commences.”

The City Hall boss only replied with one word, “Done.” This is said to have widened the rift between the two.

 Additional reporting by Eric Wainaina