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Water officials on spot over re-routing of a multi-million project

The County Assembly of Taita-Taveta is set to grill senior officials in the troubled water department over an incident where the department oversaw the irregular rerouting of a community water project worth Sh. 2.2 million without following due procedure.

The re-routing exercise of Ghila Water Project is likely to see the County lose millions of shillings used in the project. The project has been serving over 300 households in four villages in the region.

On Wednesday, hired youth raided the home of Mr. James Mwadime, a prominent farmer in Werugha, where the project was located and proceeded to dig up the pipes and disconnect the pumps serving the project.

Mr. Mwadime said retrogressive politics and petty differences were behind the action by officials in the Department of Water.

He alleged that the project’s Committee members’ refusal to be placed under the supervision and management of the Taveta Water and Sewerage Company (TAVEVO was the genesis of the woes facing the project.

“They wanted to forcefully put the community project under TAVEVO but the Committee refused. This is where all this anger came from,” said the farmer.

Members of the County Assembly Committee on Water accompanied by the leadership of the County Assembly arrived at the farm in a fact-finding mission that would form the basis of their probe.

The Majority Leader, Harris Keke, blasted the Department for taking such a drastic action without fully complying with the law.

He noted that there was no project Committee in office to oversee the project as the former one had been disbanded.

Mr. Keke further noted that public funds were used to implement the project which was now in disarray.

“Who will account for the public funds that were used in the project? We need these answers,” he said in a charged meeting with water officials and local residents.

In response, the County Chief Officer for Water, Mr. Silavus Mwakoma, said the project had to be rerouted because it was not serving all the residents as envisaged during the project conception. He alleged that the owner of the land where the project was located had become uncooperative forcing the department to seek quick alternatives to ensure residents went on accessing water.

“The residents in the farthest villages were not getting water yet water was being pumped. We had to take action to rectify this matter,” he said.

Harris Keke, the Majority Leader in the County Assembly (c), addressing the County Executive Committee (CEC) Member for Water, Esther Mwanyumba (l). Looking on is Johnes Mghanga, the Chair of the Water Committee. Photo by Wagema Mwangi

There are also claims that the committee of the former project was mismanaging the funds contributed by the beneficiaries to meet power bills and other maintenance costs.

Area MCA Harrison Tuja, said that the project rerouting was in bad faith because it meant millions of public funds have gone down the drain. He said that he was the initiator of the project to supply water to residents who had suffered for a long time.

“There should have been attempts to reconcile and resolve all these differences to protect the public interest,” he argued.

Mr. Johnes Mghanga, chair of Water Committee, said they would summon the water officials to provide documentation of the entire project. They will also quiz on how a public project was put up on a private farm without hiving off the land parcel where the project was built on.

Mr. Mghanga noted that the rerouting was shrouded in a lot of secrecy which was against the principles of transparency and cooperation between arms of government.

“The water committee in the county assembly was kept in the dark over this saga. We are only getting to know it when it has erupted. We will summon the officials to find out what exactly went on,” he said.

By Wagema Mwangi


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