Nyoro: We've stopped graft, mismanagement of Kiambu

Governor says he has hived off the internal audit from Finance and strengthened it

In Summary

• The first thing Nyoro has been able to do is to arrest loss of revenue and corruption

• The administration has been able to fix the procurement whose system was totally broken. 

It is two years since Kiambu Governor James Nyoro took office following the impeachment of Ferdinand Waititu.

Nyoro, who had been Waititu's deputy, complained he was taking over a county facing myriads of problems, among them graft and mismanagement of Kambu.

In an exclusive interview with the Star, Nyoro said his administration has done everything possible to put Kiambu back on the right trajectory.  

You have, on several occasions, said you inherited a county that was in bad shape. Have you fixed it?

We came into office because of the mismanagement that was taking place and that led to the impeachment motion [against Waititu]. It was very unfortunate because we came in under the provisions of the Constitution and the County Government Act that says that the deputy governor will take over in the absence of the governor. The provisions spell out things that a deputy governor cannot do. For the first six months, we were there but completely helpless. Although we had come in due to mismanagement, including of human resources, finances and so on, for the first six months we could do nothing. For instance, I tried to move one CEC and he went to court. He got an injunction and we could not move him. But of course, people realised there was a wave of change and we started fixing certain things. It has taken quite a bit of time because one month later Covid-19 broke just about March 2020. It disrupted a lot of our programmes. But yes, we have been able to do a substantial amount of work.

What are the key areas you have managed to fix? 

The first thing that we have been able to do is to arrest loss of revenue and corruption. This was to do with how we collect our own revenue.  There were quite a number of loopholes. We also had financial systems that were interrupted largely to allow for the pilferage of money. We have been able to fix that. More importantly, we have been able to fix the whole issue of procurement whose system was totally broken. Our procurement procedures were not being followed. All these things will come clear to the Kiambu people and Kenyans when we appear before the Senate later next month to present and defend the 2018-2019 audit report. It will come out clearly that a number of procurement procedures were skipped, including using companies that were not prequalified, sometimes offering contractors a price higher than the engineers’ estimates, procurement of services that were not provided for in the budget and the like. There was no procedure at all and we have fixed that, but these things take time.

Complains had been raised over weak internal controls before you took over, has this been addressed?

There were no internal controls. There was no internal audit office. It was starved of money. It was somewhere within the Finance docket. It didn’t have human resources. If you don’t have a strong internal audit, then all the internal controls are not there. Since then, we have hived off the internal audit from Finance, and strengthened it and hired additional principal auditors.

You mentioned the issue of suppliers, which has been a big problem in many counties, have you fixed this?

We embarked on standardising the quality of work expected from suppliers. There was poor workmanship for several reasons including cases where whatever is paid to a contractor was being taken back so the amount of money left is not enough to do the work anticipated. But also because of supervision and certification of whether the job has been done or not was poorly managed. We have fixed this, now we hold the service provider accountable. But two years is not long enough to fix all that had not been there for a couple of years. But we are way ahead and we can say so far we have been able to achieve significant change and transformation to the county even with limited resources and weak systems.

You have been very keen on agriculture, why is this the case?

I'm not just keen on agriculture. A county is assessed on whether it has delivered its service when certain things have been delivered or not. Take, for example, health services. People will know whether Kiambu county is working if they go to the next level 2, or level 4 or 5 facilities and there is a doctor. If they find the environment is clean, they have their prescription and they get the drugs. That is one area that any county should be able to do. The second is the provision of water. You have to be able to provide clean and affordable water. Then there are the roads. The road infrastructure is so important. It is when people leave their homes and they are walking either to the shopping centre, to the market or to the hospital that they assess the quality of roads that connect them to the highway. We also have the issue of street lighting. These services are what I call necessary. But they are not sufficient to improve people’s lives. What improves people lives is economic transformation. So roads, hospitals, the water, these are enablers. The ultimate goal is to have money in people’s pockets.

Is this where agriculture comes in?

Yes, one of the areas of economic enhancement and transformation is agriculture. Forty per cent of our population in Kiambu lives in rural areas, unlike other areas where 70 or 80 per cent live in rural areas. We said why don’t we do something about agriculture.  This is in terms of food and food security. We should be able to produce enough food for ourselves and sell it to the market. Also the dairy sector, we are the largest dairy producer in the country. So, we have to do something in dairy sector in order to remain on top. Also, we have to tap into the small dairy societies that are disadvantaged. This is what will give people daily income. We have coffee, we wanted to set up a bacon factory, but we realised its land had been taken away. We have a case in court, and we had to look for other alternatives. We are passionate about agriculture, we have come up with new extension methods we have piloted here. We are now working with organisations like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Council of Governors and the ministry of agriculture. We are ready to upscale those extension methods. 

What are you doing for the small scale traders?

Our people are entrepreneurs and run small and medium enterprises. Two days ago, I took a walk along Thika streets. I was looking at businesses people are doing. I wanted to understand their constraints. These are people who are selling cosmetics, phones, hawkers and the like. The issue is, what can we do to make their business environment more conducive and they can access more affordable capital. We have come up with an arrangement with the Kenya Commercial Bank where the objective is to subsidise interest rates, but also create some form of guarantee so that people don’t have to be asked for title deeds. We are also putting up some markets. So far, we have five big markets that are ready, thanks to His Excellency the President, [Uhuru Kenyatta], for this. We also have about 10 medium level markets. All these are to enhance trade and put more money in people’s pockets. If you have money, you can buy water, you can do your own borehole, you can buy health, you can buy education, and you don’t have to wait for free education.  So the enablers like roads, water, hospitals, education and the like, they should make it more conducive for people to make more money and them you have a community that is more governable.

Kiambu county is losing agricultural land to real estate at an alarming rate, is that a concern to the county?

This is a major concern. Unfortunately, the country has not come up with a policy on to what extent agricultural land would be exploited for real estate. There is a lot of subdivision of large scale farms to come up real estate. We have lost a significant portion of land that was under coffee in Kiambu and Ruiru. We have started seeing infiltration in tea farms. We need to come up with regulations. We need to come up with spatial planning. But this is easily said than done.

Why is this so?

If you have a coffee farm of 10 acres and coffee is not doing well and you as a family need to go and seek medical treatment locally or outside the country but you can’t get money from coffee, the next thing you will do is subdivide your land, sell part of it and get money for treatment. The problem here is how we balance individual interests with community or national or county benefits. That is the dilemma we have been in.  We have tried to do something in Kabete, where we have said the East of it is commercial and you can do housing and the other side is agricultural. But the people on the agricultural side have gone to court, asking what the rationale is. It is very complicated. Our Constitution is very strong on public participation and the Bill of Rights. Our view is that we should make it more conducive for investors to move to arid areas. We need to create incentives and necessary infrastructure and create disincentives for the concrete jungle.

Recently, the former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn visited Kiambu, why did he choose your county?

He is the current chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. Next month, Kenya will be hosting the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa annual forum. He visited Kiambu because we have piloted some new extension methods not done anywhere else in Africa. One of them is the village-based advisors. This is making farmers become trainers of their fellow farmers. We have about 1,200 village-based advisors, who are farmers. They are taught very basic things, then go teach other farmers. It is so successful that we have been able to reach 300,000 farmers and he came to see it himself. Men have been the ones mostly doing agriculture. But this methodology has also encouraged youth and women to actively participate in agriculture.

How is Kiambu handling the influx of patients in its hospitals mostly from the neighbouring counties including Nairobi?

Being close to Nairobi is a double-edged sword. There are good things and bad things. We estimate our hospitals take about 40 per cent of patients who are not Kiambu residents. If you improve health facilities, you can’t stop people from coming. For instance, we have a Covid Centre in Tigoni. It is the only Covid centre around. It has oxygen that is piped directly to the bed. When you have such good facilities, you can’t stop people from coming. This has subjected us to much financial strain. The money that we receive from the national government as a county does not reflect the 40 per cent of patients we are talking about. But we have to meet for this even in terms of health personnel. Right now, the cost of treating a Covid patient a day is 30,000 shillings. If you have an average of 21 days, you have 600,000 shillings spent on that patient. And we are not charging because that is the government policy. The only Covid patients charged are those in private hospitals and also places like KU hospital and MTRH because these are parastatals. But we are happy to provide the service.



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