The reality check awaiting Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja after taking over

Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja taking the oath of office administered by Justice Roselyne Aburili ( left) .

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | NMG

Governor Johnson Sakaja on Thursday last week took over the reins of City Hall with a promise to build a city whose hallmark is order, dignity and opportunities for all.

Two days later, the new governor took a tour of parts of the capital accompanied by his deputy Njoroge Muchiri, where he came face-to-face with the garbage menace in the city.

The tour offered a glimpse of what awaits the fourth governor of Nairobi as he begins working for the more than five million city residents.

"Toured various parts of the city this morning with my officers. I have given firm directions on resolving the current garbage problem across Nairobi in the next few days," posted Mr Sakaja on social media. The governor will today meet with the more than 11,000 county government workers.

"This is to notify all staff that the governor has scheduled a meeting with all Nairobi City County staff at 7am at City Hall buildings at the parking lot on Monday August 29, 2022. Please [attend] the meeting without fail," acting County Secretary and head of County Public Service Jairus Musumba said in a memo to staff.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) is expected to start the process to hand over four county functions ahead of its winding up on November 24.

The functions — health services, transport, public works, utilities and ancillary services and county planning and management — were transferred to NMS on February 25, 2020.

"NMS has accomplished all the tasks given to it to do in the two years and the extra tasks that we have taken on board, which are ongoing projects, I will be more than happy to handover. We will start the process from next as we wind up as NMS," said NMS Director-General Lieutenant General Mohamed Badi.

Mr Sakaja has his work cut out for him after making ambitious pledges during the campaign period. Failures by successive regimes of Dr Evans Kidero, Mike Sonko and outgoing Governor Ann Kananu has left Nairobi residents grappling with challenges regarding waste management, water, health services, high unemployment rates, insecurity, inadequate housing, education, a tough business environment and lack of adequate infrastructure in informal settlements.

The county government is only able to collect less than 2,000 tonnes of the over 3,000 tonnes of garbage produced in the city. The net effect has been mounds of garbage strewn all over the capital right from the city centre to the estates.

The more than 100 health facilities are also struggling with lack of medical supplies with frequent strikes by health workers.

In terms of water, the demand and supply deficit in the city keeps on burgeoning with 193 boreholes sunk by NMS seeming like a drop in the ocean as water rationing, which began in April 2017, continues.

Traders in the capital have complained of a punitive licensing regime and harassment by inspectorate officers. There is also the problem of parking boys, hawkers, street families and crippling traffic jams that cost the economy Sh50 million daily due to time wasted on the road.

On education, many children in informal settlements are not in school due to biting poverty.

With provision of services dependent on how much revenue is available, City Hall has continually failed to meet its revenue targets experiencing an annual deficit of Sh8 billion on average, collecting a paltry Sh10 billion in own-source revenue.

Nairobi receives Sh19.24 billion up from Sh15.91 billion from the national government in shareable revenue allocation and conditional grants. The low own-source revenue figures have been blamed on corruption at City Hall and a not fully-digitised revenue collection services, which have denied past regimes the much-needed cash to deliver services to Nairobi residents.

Mr Sakaja has packaged himself as a governor who will oversee a county government that will work for the residents and deliver quality services.

Among his pledges include coming up with an integrated mass transit plan that will incorporate smart solutions to decongest the city centre and reduce the time spent in traffic jams by 80 per cent.

This is in addition to the introduction of a commuter rail as well as safe and reliable infrastructure for non-vehicular transport with the politician saying he will leverage on an infrastructure bond to fund such development.

To deal with the garbage menace, Mr Sakaja pledged to invest in renewable power generation from solid waste to provide affordable electricity to homes and businesses. He also vowed to provide adequate infrastructure for waste disposal and deal with corruption and conflict of interest in the waste management sector.

He further committed to increase the number of health professionals, establish a county blood bank, settle debts owed to the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority and address issues to do with Collective Bargaining Agreements.

In terms of education, the governor pledged to introduce free feeding programmes for all public primary schools and enhanced bursaries as part of reforms in the education sector.

In terms of provision of an enabling business environment, he committed to introducing an electronic unified single business permit and instant online licences renewal, build 20 modern markets, establish a Sh50 million Biashara Fund as well as simplify and automate the planning, building and construction approvals.

Deputy Governor Njoroge Muchiri added that they will also focus on streamlining the licensing regime, and building systems to make it easier for Nairobi residents and business people to not only receive services but also pay what is due to the county government.