When she was named Nakuru County Executive Committee Member for Lands, Housing and Physical Planning, Engineer Lucy Wanjiku Kariuki didn’t have the vaguest idea that her new job would be mired in turbulence and never ending controversies in the murky world of politics.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui who had romped home after 2017 polls was cobbling up his administration when he plucked Ms Kariuki from her plum post as a Telecommunication, Instrumentation and Control engineer at Kenya Pipeline Company.
Hitherto, a respected top manager at the state corporation, a bastion of respect and dignity, Engineer Kariuki was now thrust in unruly environment where she on several occasions witnessed firsthand Members of County Assembly transform the chamber into an arena of fisticuffs and flying chairs.
The genial career engineer, who had been accustomed to orderly boardroom meetings and clockwork precision at KPC soon learned that she was dealing with a different kettle of tea – here politicians engaged more in physical confrontations and saber-rattling rather than addressing urgent issues that were facing the public.
Engineer Kariuki who has been recalled by KPC to head a newly created department has however for the past three years managed to survive the rumble and tumble of the County Assembly politics, from one high to another low. She has been transferred a record three times to different dockets-and this has constantly kept her in the eye of political storms.
Governor Kinyanjui has hailed the outgoing CEC for Youth, Gender, Culture and Social Services as a hardworking person who despite tremendous setbacks, was determined to succeed.
Her contribution to both residents and county administration, said the governor, was immeasurable. He described her as a great visionary who, by dint of discipline, courage, and endless effort, will leave a lasting and indelible legacy.
Kinyanjui has named Education, Vocational Training and Information Communication Technology CEC Joseph Kiuna to act in Engineer Kariuki’s position.
It was shortly after she was transferred to the Roads, Transport and Public Works portfolio where she enjoyed immense influence as one of the few CECs who had the Governor’s ear that her tribulations started.
She was tasked with overseeing the Sh 200 million Boresha Barabara, one of the flagship projects of Governor Kinyanjui, aimed at improving dilapidated infrastructure in 55 wards.
Less than six months into the docket, the fate of the besieged County executive for Roads appeared sealed after the assembly overwhelmingly voted for her impeachment. She became the first executive since the advent of devolution in the cosmopolitan county to be impeached.
According to the impeachment motion sponsored by the Dundori MCA Michael Machembu, Engineer Kariuki failed to implement and coordinate the programmes prudently including, the street lighting programme. She was also accused of mishandling the Boresha Barabara programme
The MCAs also accused her for not honoring eight out of 12 invitations to appear before the committee on Transport and Public Works.
The engineer was indicted for abuse of office and interference with the procurement processes in the department and use of abusive and derogatory language against a section of the residents.
However like the proverbial cat with nine lives, the elegant and articulate Engineer had a last laugh after Governor Kinyanjui handed her a new lifeline by relocating her to the Gender, Youth and Sports department, a day before her impeachment.
Even as fuming MCAs made several subsequent and strong-willed attempts to flush her out of office, Engineer Kariuki ignored them and discharged her mandate with an untiring fighting spirit, unbowed and ready to soldier on until her departure last week.
Ms Kariuki has denied claims by MCAs that she interfered with the Boresha Barabara and street lighting programme.
“I did not impede the accomplishment of the Boresha Barabara programme as alleged. The execution of the programme relied on the availability of funds and machinery which I did not have control over,” she stated.
On street lighting, she said that the project ran into headwinds due to colossal bills running into millions of shillings.
“The street lighting programme was put to hold due to concerns by the executive over costs of maintenance and huge bills.”
The devolved unit’s administration was looking for lasting solutions to exercise prudence in the utilization of the resources and a consultant was engaged to advise the county government on the same,” said Ms Kariuki.
She said the funds that had been budgeted for the street lighting project were safe, WHILE rubbishing claims that she had intentionally declined to honour the assembly committee summons.
“My failure to honour the assembly summons was not deliberate, the notices were too short and were in conflict with my official engagements,” she explained.
She said that whenever she failed to honour the summonses, she would either respond in writing or send a representative.
On the use of abusive and derogatory language against Kuresoi and Molo residents, she defended herself saying, she had been quoted out of context.
“I am aware of the devastating effects such statements could cause. The statement could have been made because the region witnessed political upheavals in 1992. I come from the region and I have blood relations in Kuresoi and Molo.”
Ms Kariuki, who denied claims that her office was inaccessible to members of the public and MCAs, said that no individual office can take responsibility for poor service delivery.
“Service delivery relies on the workforce in the department, accessibility to resources and competencies among the workers,” said the Roads executive who admitted that the department was understaffed and lacked skilled manpower.
She also denied breaching any law relating to procurement of goods and services. The ward reps had accused her of interfering with the procurement docket by ordering it to award contracts to specific contractors.
However, she denied the claims: “I have never been in charge of procurement, my role has been to provide policy guidelines,” she said.
By Anne Mwale