The high cost of electricity is hampering implementation of the street lighting programme in Nakuru County, Governor Lee Kinyanjui has said.
In what appeared to be a belated defense of the impeached Roads Executive, Lucy Wanjiku Kariuki, the Governor explained that the programme was put on hold following concerns over costs of maintenance and huge bills.
According to the impeachment motion sponsored by the Dundori MCA, Michael Machembu Chege, that send Ms. Kariuki home last week, she had, among other accusations, plunged Nakuru Town into darkness since she had failed to utilize money allocated for street lighting.
Between financial year 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 the county government had allocated Sh.122,685,160 for street lighting.
The former Kenya Pipeline engineer had defended herself maintaining that the street lighting programme was facing challenges due to huge bills running into millions of shillings.
The governor who, for the first time, publicly commented on issues raised in the impeachment motion spoke at the Nakuru County Headquarters. Kinyanjui is yet to formally announce Ms Kariuki’s fate after the County Assembly’s decision was delivered to him for implementation by speaker Joel Maina Kairu.
“The high cost of electricity is really hurting us. We are now considering using other cheaper alternatives such as solar power, which is more reliable and cheap in lighting up the streets.
We are in the process of installing energy saving lights and devices on street masts which have been designed to bring down costs by over 30 percent. The County has been pumping between Sh.17million to Sh.20 million in settling street light bills,” asserted the governor.
During proceedings to impeach her Eng. Kariuki had assured the ad-hoc committee appointed to probe her conduct and chaired by Kaptembwa MCA, Peter Mwamba Kajwang that the funds allocated for the street lighting project were safe.
“I am clean. A consultant has been engaged to advise the county government on the best way to light the streets without incurring huge expenses.
The programme is currently not being implemented owing to concerns by the executive over costs of maintenance and huge bills,” said the former Roads Executive
In his rejoinder, Kinyanjui allayed fears that money meant for the project had been misappropriated and that an Independent Energy Audit had established that there was no unnecessary loss or theft of funds.
“Any thoughts of errors in our system have been cleared with recent revelations, we now know that the problem was not with us. We are looking for lasting solutions to exercise prudence in the utilization of the resources in the street lighting programme,” the governor said.
He further said energy auditors had verified the bills that had already been paid against actual consumption.
In what was seen as an attempt to hand the besieged CEC a new lifeline Kinyanjui had carried out a reshuffle barely 24 hours before the impeachment, which saw the now jobless Ms Kariuki moved to the Youth and Sports docket.
Ms. Kariuki becomes the second woman County Executive Committee Member to exit office under Kinyanjui’s watch after Halima Gababa was fired by the governor. The latter has since challenged her sacking in court and the matter is pending before the High Court.
The five members of the ad-hoc committee that has sealed Ms Kariuki fate included Humphrey Mwaniki (Nakuru East Ward), Bernard Ng’etich (Nyota Ward), Ms Cecilia Karanja (Visoi Ward) and Mr Zacharia Kahiro (Njoro)
The MCAs also accused the embattled Roads executive of failing to honour several summons by the Assembly Roads and Public Works committee.
“The executive failed to honour eight out of 12 invitations to appear before the committee on Transport and Public Works. She has no respect to MCAs,” said Mr Machembu who is also the chairperson of the infrastructure committee.
The Nominated MCA, Elizabeth Gichuki, Viwandani MCA, Erick Gichuki Kariuki and Former Leader of Majority, Stanley Karanja had faulted composition of ad-hoc claiming that its membership was already biased against Ms Kariuki.
By Anne Mwale