Garissa residents have dismissed the government’s estimated figures for development projects in the county and demanded more funding for them.
They expressed their wishes, led by Garissa Township MP Mohamed Dekkow, during a public participation forum in Garissa town.
“We have so many challenges as a county, considering our size. For that reason, we need more funding to achieve our development goals,” Mr Dekkow said.
He added that the resources allocated to county governments are never enough to meet local needs.
“Garissa is one of the counties that has felt marginalized over the years and yet what we are getting at the moment is not adequate,” he said.
The MP wants water supply improved and for developments in the health sector to be aligned with the people’s needs..
Specifically, he urged the national government to support the improvement of Bulla Medina and Iftin hospitals in Garissa to the level five facilities.
Mr Dekkow, who is a member of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), also called for more security installations.
“We have only one police station in the Garissa Township Constituency. The rest are police posts in rented facilities. We need resources allocated so that we can peacefully coexist where there is law and order,” he said, adding the police housing project stalled and that learning institutions lack adequate facilities.
The national government had presented projections for several projects in Garissa, including construction of a modern hostel and administration block at Garissa University, which would cost Sh5 million.
Tuition blocks at the same learning institution would cost Sh30 million, the same as a library.
The institution currently has 1,952 students, up from 400, according to Mr Irura Ng’ang’a, the deputy vice chancellor in charge of finance and planning.
“The infrastructure is not adequate for the population. The national government has approved and financed construction of a tuition block, a library, an administration block and a water storage facility. Our [message] to the parliamentary budget committee is that the budget was too minimal [and was only enough for laying] the foundations of these projects,” Mr Ng’ang’a said.
“We are not just building a library for the university but for the entire population drawn from all schools in the frontier because this is the only institution of higher learning in this region.”
He said they need a tuition block that can accommodate at least 600 students.
Mr Ng’ang’a further warned that the new funding model introduced by the government will disadvantage Garissa University due to low student intakes.
“The government has introduced a new funding model that is determined by the number of students admitted. We have no choice but to attract and admit enough numbers at Garissa University so that we can sustain our infrastructure and staff salaries,” he said, adding Garissa University is an institution under threat.
Mr Ng’ang’a said the high cost of development projects at the institution is the result of security recommendations by the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC).
He said Garissa University needs Sh150 million for the tuition block, not Sh5 million.
“We need Sh207 million for the library, not Sh30 million as projected,” he said. “The water project that was given Sh10 million in the last financial year now needs Sh16 million to be completed.”
Garissa University suffered a vicious attack by terror group Al-Shabaab on April 2, 2015, when 148 people, the majority of them students, were killed.
The deputy VC also warned that a proposal by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to change a teacher’s combination of subjects from two to three will hurt the facility.
‘Willing to pay taxes’
Mr Dubat Ali Amey, a clan elder, said Garissa residents are willing to be taxed for better services.
“You cannot ask your wife to serve you food when you did not provide money for food. We are willing to be taxed, as long as the government makes our lives better,” Mr Amey said.
He urged the national government to invest more in the supply of water to Garissa’s people.
“We want a decent water project on River Tana, to supply water to Garissa and Tana River counties. The national government remains with a huge percentage of the national budget,” he said.
Mr Amey also asked the national government to fund the provincial administration for the improvement of the county’s security.
Ms Zainab Mohamed Idifle fingered the national government for ignoring women’s affairs in the 2023/ 2024 budget estimates.
“There is no allocation for women empowerment in Garissa. We need money to fight drug and substance abuse. We need a rehabilitation center in Garissa,” she said, urging the national government to allocate more funds to the county woman representative’s office.
She also said women in Garissa need funds to run peace initiatives in the county that suffers from inter-clan skirmishes.
Mr Mohamed Abdikher, the Lafey MP and a member of the parliamentary budget committee, said his team was in Garissa to have the locals participate in the budget making process.
“We are in sixteen countie. I am Garissa to get their views that I will then present to the committee back in Nairobi. We have received enough memoranda from the locals. We shall consider all their concerns,” Mr Abdikher said.
The Jubilee Party MP urged Kenyans to pay taxes so that the national government can deliver on its campaign pledges.