Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Senator Mithika Linturi clashed over various issues during the inaugural gubernatorial debate at the Kenya Methodist University on Monday night.
The debate organised by local media houses in partnership with the Media Council of Kenya and KeMU was meant to interrogate aspirants on their agenda for Meru residents.
At least six aspirants have expressed interest in the governor seat but only two candidates participated in the debate.
Missing in action was Meru Woman Rep Kawira Mwangaza, Bonface Kinoti, Evans Muriki and Lucy Gakenia, who are all vying as independent candidates.
Ms Mwangaza said she had not received an official invitation from the debate organisers while other aspirants are said to have shown interest late.
However, the technical working group on gubernatorial, Senatorial and Woman rep debates chairperson Mr Sammy Muraya said Ms Mwangaza had been invited.
“I have also made a decision to skip the debate because my scorecard speaks for itself, the votes are with the people on the ground. Consequently, I am not going to waste my time there. I launched my Manifesto a long time ago, therefore I don't have time to rebroadcast myself. It is a trap set by my competitors who have nothing to show in terms of development.” Ms Mwangaza stated in her official Facebook page.
Governor Murungi and Senator Linturi, who are in rival political formations of Azimio and Kenya Kwanza respectively clashed on health, agriculture, trade and industry as well as infrastructure.
Mr Murungi defended his track record saying he had invested heavily in health including setting up a cancer centre, renal unit, ICU among others.
“We have done so much in health particularly in addressing the cancer menace. We have also given prominence to preventive to reduce the number of people getting sick. My administration has also invested a lot in health infrastructure to increase access to treatment,” Mr Murungi said.
However, Mr Linturi poked holes into Mr Murungi’s performance in health service delivery arguing that he would do better if elected.
Mr Linturi accused the county government of running down the health sector, abandoning health workers and having ‘incompetent’ executive.
“In my assessment, the health sector is in ICU. The governor has admitted that there are drug shortages. This is either by design, default or incompetence. It is upon the governor to correct the mess, but he has failed,” he said.
The senator faulted the appointment of executive committee members who lack experience and expertise in the departments they head.
He said he would address congestion in public hospitals’ wards especially at the county referral hospital.
“If elected, I would streamline the supply of drugs through proper management systems. Our hospitals should be able to have ICT systems that indicate the availability of pharmaceutical supplies and drugs. As at now, the morale of our health workers is at its lowest,” the senator said.
However, governor Murungi blamed most of the challenges facing the county on delays by Treasury to release funds to counties.
He said the funding delays have made it difficult for the county to pay workers, purchase drugs and execute other functions.
“This is why as governors, we have been pushing for increased funding and establishment of a separate IFMIS system for counties,” the governor said.
He added, “Mr Linturi who is our Senator should show any instance he tried to push for allocation of more money to Meru. The last time he checked, he voted against the one man, one-shilling model citing solidarity with Tharaka Nithi.”
But Senator Linturi said the governor had failed to prudently utilise the available resources.
On agriculture, Mr Murungi said if re-elected, he would focus on value addition but Mr Linturi said the county had ignored the most urgent needs of production costs and market for the local produce.
While the Mr Murungi accused his rival of having very being ignorant on matters development, Mr Linturi said the governor was out of touch with reality despite having resources to familiarise with the issues affecting Meru people.