Business came to a standstill at Sikalame trading centre in Ugunja Sub County when irate villagers took to the streets to protest alleged misappropriation of funds meant for water projects in the area.
The villagers, who trekked for 10 kilometres from the Busia- Kisumu road junction to Sikalame, accused Siaya county government officials and the office of the Sidindi Ward member of the county assembly of colluding with contractors to squander public funds after filing fake returns claiming work had been completed.
Speaking to the media outside the Sikalame MCA’s office, the demonstrators led by John Omondi Oramba and human rights activist Fredrick Ojiro called on the government to send in a team of independent investigators to audit the expenditure of the Siaya county government’s water department.
They said that a syndicate comprising MCAs, ward administrators, senior county government officials and contractors was fleecing the public through shoddy jobs on projects that later become overvalued.
Oramba cited the Ugolwe – Mariwa water project which was to be drilled at a cost of Sh2.5 million as a case in point, adding that no drilling took place.
“Instead, the contractor connected pipes to an existing national government project and pocketed the money,” said the demonstrators.
Oramba said that the contractor laid a few pipes to cover a distance of not more than 380 metres from Kakoth to Ugolwe and vacated the scene, alleging that he had completed the works.
He said that their efforts to have the Sidindi Ward MCA, Joseph Wandera intervene have hit a snag.
“It is disappointing that a project where the national government spends one million shillings, the county government ends up spending three million,” he lamented.
Another demonstrator, Mary Olando lamented that workers engaged to lay the pipes were not paid their dues.
A human rights activist, Fredrick Ojiro lamented that millions of shillings meant for water projects have been lost in the county and challenged governor Cornel Rasanga to rein in his workers who appear to be colluding with contractors and MCAs to fleece the public.
“We are challenging the governor to come clean over this matter unless he is part of the syndicate and has been using the amorphous contractors and MCAs as a conduit to benefit from public funds,” said Ojiro.
The demonstrators called on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to move in and launch investigations into the water projects and other county government projects where the public did not get value for the hefty amounts spent.
By Philip Onyango