When Mike Sonko was overwhelmingly elected and consequently took the oath of office on August 21 last year as Nairobi's second governor, many city dwellers breathed a sigh of relief.
They banked their hopes on the flamboyant county boss to turn things round and make their stay in the capital city more comfortable, after what many said was a disappointing five-year term by Evans Kidero.
Sonko vowed to address the protracted problems facing ordinary Nairobians, including garbage, traffic congestion, huge business fees and poor road network.
And now, almost a year into Sonko’s tenure, his administration is still grappling with many of the problems inherited from his predecessor.
Residents’ concerns include slow pace of development, heavy traffic jams, hawkers menace, uncollected garbage and poor roads network.
However, Sonko says he will not let them down. "I am on track. I know I made promises to city residents that I am under obligation to fulfil because I don't promise what I cannot deliver,” Sonko says in an interview.
WAR ON CARTELS
The governor says his administration prides itself in having set the foundation upon which many of his promises will be delivered by raising revenue collection and dismantling cartels.
He says the county has enhanced revenue collection, surpassing his Sh1 billion-a month target and outdoing the former administration.
Sonko adds that he has gone after cartels, dismantling their imposing figures within the corridors of City Hall, as well as crushing intricate corruption webs.
With Sh15.8 billion sets aside by the national government as the county’s equitable share of revenue for the 2018-19 financial year, expectations are sky high. Sonko says he won't disappoint.
“My manifesto was very clear and I have not veered off focus. We have achieved quite a lot, despite teething problems,” says Sonko in response to concerns from county dwellers that he has not lived up to the billing.
“I am focused. I have done a lot to streamline operations and to build confidence in internal systems that had initially been taken over by cartels,” adds the governor, admitting that the last one year has been tasking.
Sonko says the more than 3.5 million residents must also know that his administration has made great strides in dealing with county staff.
“For the first time since counties came into existence in 2013, Nairobi became the first devolved unit to pay its workers their monthly salaries from local revenue,” he says.
“We have continued to pay employees their salaries from our coffers without relying on our sharable revenue without any delays. I commend my workers for their efforts.”
The county collected Sh8.2 billion in financial year 2017-18, out of a target of Sh17.2 billion. Its wage bill currently stands at Sh1.2 billion per month.
In his 22-page manifesto during the campaigns, Sonko had pledged to prioritise security, environment, education and health, as well as finding a lasting solution to the traffic menace, which costs the county billions of shillings annually.
Sonko’s administration has embarked on a major upgrade of the city’s key roads, especially in the central business district and other estates.
The governor says 42 roads are under construction in the city, with 12 more roads set to be put under construction in the next few months. Once completed, the Sh3.2 billion road projects would go a long way to decongesting the city.
The county is as well working with the national government through the Kenya Rural Roads Authority to rehabilitate 38 roads in Eastlands at a cost of Sh2.7 billion in the current financial year.
“More than four million people will be impacted by the ongoing construction and rehabilitation of roads, as they are spread across all the 17 subcounties,” Sonko says.
In this year’s Nairobi City County Budget, the largest share was allocated to Public Works, Transport and Infrastructure, amounting to Sh5.4 billion. The governor says Sh4.2 billion of the allocation will go towards projects aimed at decongesting the city.
The remaining Sh1.2 billion will be spent on road safety interventions, including building bridges and traffic management in the city.
On matters environment, Sonko’s focus was to resolve the issue of garbage, water scarcity and sanitation — some of the biggest nightmares for Nairobi dwellers.
Despite hurdles faced, Sonko says he is addressing the garbage mess through proper waste management mechanisms. Plans to launch the multibillion-shilling waste-to-energy recycling plant in Nairobi’s Dandora dumpsite are in high gear.
“The groundbreaking ceremony of the Sh28 billion Dandora waste-to-energy recycling plant will be done in December this year,” the governor says.
He says the county is in the final stages of awarding a contract for the construction the plant. The plan was revived after the county government finally acquired a title for the land.
Sonko says in the 1990s, when the population of Nairobi city was about 2 million, the city had over 250 garbage collection trucks and garbage skips in all areas.
However, when he took office in August last year, he only found 60 trucks, and half of them were broken down. He says he has, however, been able to purchase new garbage trucks and skips.
Nairobi produces 2,500 tonnes of garbage daily but the county can only collect 2,000 tonnes, leaving 500 tonnes littered.
Sonko says currently, Nairobi has about 135,000 tonnes of accumulated waste in rivers, estates and illegal dumps.
“It is my pledge to increase my administration’s capacity to collect this waste," Sonko says.
He says the county has provided in the budget an allocation to build central garbage collection points in all the wards, where residents can legally leave their garbage for collection.
On health matters, the county is building trauma centres in four hospitals: Mama Lucy Kibaki, Pumwani, Mbagathi and Mutuini.
Trauma centres are well-equipped and staffed hospitals, which provide care for patients suffering from major traumatic injuries, such as road accidents, gunshot wounds or any other accident.
This will help reduce the number of patients seeking services at Kenyatta National Hospital, which Sonko says should now become strictly a referral facility.
KNH has been the main referral hospital in Kenya for decades, and the growth in the population of Nairobi has put a lot of pressure on this facility, which is usually congested on any single day.
“We have recognised the congestion at KNH. Therefore, my government has provided money in its budget to build trauma centres at our four hospitals of Mama Lucy, Pumwani, Mbagathi and Mutuini,” Sonko says.
He says in the 2018-19 financial year, the county has committed 21 per cent of county revenue towards healthcare provision.
“We have set up maternity wings in Kayole South and Baba Dogo health centres, an oxygen plant in Mama Lucy and a renal unit at Mbagathi, providing life-saving dialysis for thousands of people,” Sonko says.
He says to ensure steady supply of medicines and medical supplies to all facilities, his administration has already paid the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Sh51 million.
On education, Sonko became the first governor to launch a free programme for Early Childhood Development Education. He directed that every child be allocated a capitation of Sh3,815 for the 13,848 children in the 205 ECDE centres.
The programme has already been rolled out and is expected to ease the burden of poor parents living in informal settlements, as well as street children under children’s homes.
“I will remain focused in fulfilling one of my key election pledges, to improve the quality of education in the city, and make it accessible for all children," says the governor, who adds that matters education are close to his heart.
The initiative is expected to increase the enrolment from the current 15,295 children to about 17,000 children by the close of the year. To cater for this increase, Sonko said his government has finalised plans to employ an extra 520 ECDE teachers.
The governor will be marking one year in office next month. His term was rocked in its fifth month by the resignation of Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe, who is yet to be replaced six months later.