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February 21, 2019

Sonko suspends more staff as critics question chaotic reign

Nairobi governor Mike Sonko visiting the victims of the Kariobangi sewerage blockage, Sonko said that all structure built on sewer lines will be demolished to pave way for expansion of sewer line and upgrade the sewer plant on July 27, 2018. /GPS
Nairobi governor Mike Sonko visiting the victims of the Kariobangi sewerage blockage, Sonko said that all structure built on sewer lines will be demolished to pave way for expansion of sewer line and upgrade the sewer plant on July 27, 2018. /GPS

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is once again on the spotlight over the apparent reluctance to fill key positions in his administration and continued running of the county government from his rural home.

The governor has been quiet about the appointment of a Deputy Governor since his controversial nomination of lawyer Miguna Miguna was rejected by the MCAs in May.

The Star has established that Sonko still operates from his Mua Hills home in Machakos despite the government reinstating his security details that had been scaled down to five from about 20.

He also has more than 10 armed private bodyguards and enjoys the protection of tens of county inspectorate officers whenever he tours the county.

An aide intimated to the Star that Sonko only comes to the city when he has a planned event. But even so, he does not set foot at his City Hall office and only does so at night, mostly during weekends.

“CECs and the county secretary come home every week for meetings. Even members [MCAs] come, almost daily,” he says.

Sonko is yet to fill two chief officer positions and only appointed Newton Munene this week despite him having been vetted and approved by the county assembly as Finance executive in May.

Medical Services and Finance chief officer nominees were rejected by the MCAs.

The governor's close allies say the governor has been avoiding the subject and often pick up quarrels with anyone engaging him on the pending appointments, including trusted Jubilee MCAs, who he relies on to push his agenda in the house.

"We also don't know what is happening. We have tried to ask him and he is saying that he fears for his security but this is vague. If we ask him to explain then you find yourself in trouble. I didn't know how a deputy governor can be a security threat to him. I really don't know, " a confidant said.

Sources say the city boss rarely consults his Jubilee party or his advisors but makes unilateral decisions and appointments that surprise all.

Majority chief whip and Ngara MCA Mwaura Chege, one of his closest friends and most trusted MCA, says it is the prerogative of the governor to make such appointments and that he does not need to consult the house.

“I don't know because the law is very clear on the roles of the governor. Anything touching on the appointment of the deputy governor or chief officers is his work and he doesn't need to consult anyone. He can consult us , yes, but it is not a must. Our work as the assembly is to wait for the names of the nominees and vet them,” says Chege.

Minority chief whip Peter Imwatok who has been critical on the governor's style of leadership, said he would be demanding answers on the floor of the house as to the delays in appointment of deputy governor and threatened to seek legal redress if he does not get a satisfactory response.

“The governor should have nominated another person after Miguna's nomination failed to go through within 14 days as per the Supreme Court's advisory. The governor is violating the law and the advisory of the apex court and we will not allow him to continue like this,” he said.

The Supreme Court in March gave an advisory to Sonko and Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga to nominate deputies within 14 days send the names to the respective county assemblies for vetting and approval or otherwise. But unlike Sonko who is yet to appoint a deputy following the resignation of Polycarp Igathe in January, Kahiga has since nominate a deputy and subsequently approved by MCAs and sworn in.

Sonko's communication director Elkana Jacob says the governor is not in any hurry to nominate a deputy. “The governor nominated Miguna Miguna but the assembly, in its wisdom rejected him. So, he is taking his time to get a suitable person that he can work best with,” he said.

At City Hall, services to the residents in at least four departments have been hit by the erratic suspension of staff. The departments have either been closed or are running on skeleton staff owing to the dismissals.

In procurement department for instance, out of the 51 employees, more than 30 have been sent on compulsory leave. Those left, are feeling the weight of the workload. Sometimes they leave the office at midnight.

Legal,  planning and finance are the other departments that have been affected. On Monday, Sonko suspended acting finance chief officer Ekaya Alumasi and acting head of county treasury Stephen Mutua for allegedly misusing public funds.

Their offices were immediately locked. The officers, the Star has established, were suspended for failing to seek an approval from the governor before making a payment.

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