Ove 200 contractors is Kisumu have threatened to hold demonstrations if the county government fails to offset about Sh.2.7 billion owed to them before close of business today as earlier promised.
Speaking to KNA on Wednesday, the contractors’ Chairman, Paul Omollo revealed that part of the pending bills date back to the first county government then led by Jack Ranguma with some of their members claiming over Sh.10 million.
“More than 2000 registered and close to 1000 unregistered contractors and suppliers are still hoping to be paid even as we close the 2018/19 financial year in three days,” said Omollo.
However, the county government of Kisumu came out strongly to refute claims that it owes contractors close to Sh.2.7 billion in pending bills as alleged.
The County Director of Communications, Aloice Ager clarified that the county owes the contractors a total Sh.1.2 million in contrary to what they are demanding.
Ager disclosed that the current government was slapped with pending bills amounting to Sh.3.5 billion but on closer scrutiny only Sh1.8 billion was found to be genuine.
Omollo said half of the county governments’ projects have not been implemented as contractors fear taking up projects over delayed payments.
He added that some of the contractors regretted working with the county government given the situation has visited untold suffering on them.
He further disclosed that at least five contractors have died as a result of stress and pressure that came about from the constant harassment they got from the banks, auctioneers, courts and lenders all who were demanding their monies.
Omollo expressed fear that at the start the new financial year Kisumu will be trudging with huge pending bills nearly double any amount that the past regime held at any single time and the highest compared to any other county.
Corruption, he said, was a major challenge when it came to disbursement of payments saying contractors who had not completed their projects were instantly paid instead of those who deserved payments.
“What we are experiencing is unacceptable, the government promised us during campaigns to bring the percentage of pending bills to zero and we have not seen any action in that regard, he said adding, that was a political statement that we cannot count on.”
Omollo called President Uhuru Kenyatta to follow on his directive that all pending bills be cleared and for the national government to come up with a mechanism that would ensure contractors are paid immediately after completion of projects.
Ager called on the contractors to stop misinterpreting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent directive on pending bills to be demanding for payments all the time.
“It is illogical to think that any rational government would suspend critical development projects and concentrate on clearing pending bills,” Ager said
He at the same time, advised the service providers to stop flocking county offices corridors to demand for payments, saying such would be effected automatically once such funds are availed.
This comes even as the executive is tussling with members of the county assembly after debate on the Sh.10 billion 2019/2020 county budget flopped with the assembly citing among other demands the inclusion of all pending bills in the current budget estimates.
The situation has triggered anxiety among members who now fear that the county could be facing a crisis that may lead to service delivery grinding to a halt.
By Owiti Cynthia/Milton Onyango