With no one seeking reelection, City Hall goes on autopilot

Uhuru Kenyatta

Former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko addresses residents of Mihang’o in Embakasi East after President Uhuru Kenyatta opened a Nairobi Metropolitan Service hospital in the area. Looking on are city Governor Anne Kananu, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and NMS boss Lt-Gen Mohammed Badi.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote I Nation Media Group

City Hall has gone into autopilot, with next to nothing in terms of service delivery going on since the turn of the year.

With Governor Ann Kananu not defending her seat in the August 9 elections, the county government has been left to its own devices.

Most offices at City Hall are no longer offering services while senior staff are nowhere to be seen, with “everyone for himself and God for us all” the order of the day.

If it is not a power blackout one day, then it is workers threatening to go on strike the next, with Governor Kananu accused of always missing in action.

Frequent power cuts due to unpaid electricity bills running into millions have led to paralysis of key operations, with facilities like lifts and flush toilets not functioning and the elderly and disabled paying the biggest price.

Darkness at City Hall and City Hall Annex offices has become a common occurrence, with select county offices relying on the county’s single generator to supply power to some sections of the offices.

Heaps of uncollected garbage at Muthurwa Market Nairobi on July 11, 2022. Traders in this market are forced to operate next to dirty, stagnant water despite the obvious health hazards.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

This has often led to disruption of operations in most county offices in the two buildings, with some forced to close.

Frustrated staff have been on a go-slow, with threats to down tools only temporarily stopped by a court order.

The Kenya County Government Workers Union had issued a seven-day strike notice in June of their intention to proceed on strike starting July 4.

Among the issues cited by the union are persistent delays by City Hall to pay their salaries, failure to complete promotion of all eligible staff, unwillingness to finalise CBA negotiations, perennial electricity disconnections, and intermittent NHIF medical cover due to failure to pay premiums and remit monthly deductions.

This is in addition to non-remittance of the October and December 2021 and May 2022 deductions, failure to refund illegally deducted PAYE from new constables and firemen, non-payment of staff allowances, imprests and per diems.

With no option

Nairobi staff branch union secretary Festus Ngari accused City Hall of failing to commit to addressing issues they raised and leaving them with no option but to proceed with the industrial action.

He said the county government has constantly treated their issues in a lacklustre manner though they are weighty matters.

“Your reply letter is a testament that your office is not in any way committed to fulfilling the urgent needs of our members and that there has been no single action transcending mere words of assurance,” said Mr Ngari.

Hawkers line up along Haile Selassie Avenue on June 28, 2022. The city has seen an increase in the number of hawkers selling their wares on the streets with no one keen on dealing with the problem ahead of an election.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

He decried that their members’ fundamental human rights including access to healthcare and labour rights continue to hang in the balance due to City Hall’s actions, misactions and inactions.

Acting County Secretary Jairus Musumba requested the staff to exercise patience as the “Nairobi County government is in the process of addressing all the issues raised”.

“As previously agreed, Governor Ann Kananu confirms her commitment to the welfare of our workers. Once again, kindly reconsider the union’s stand in regard to the strike,” said Dr Musumba in the letter dated June 28, 2022.

But the problems in the county government run even deeper. In terms of the cabinet, the county government is three ministers lighter after they quit their positions to run for elective seats.

Former Lands and Housing executive Charles Kerich left to try his luck at the Bomet Central parliamentary seat on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA), losing in the party primaries.

Devolution ex-executive Vesca Kangogo also resigned to battle it out in UDA nominations for the Uasin Gishu governor’s seat, losing in the process.

Education and Sports executive Janet Ouko also left. She unsuccessfully sought nomination for the Kasarani parliamentary seat under Jubilee.

This left City Hall with only Allan Igambi (Finance), Larry Wambua (Environment), Winnie Gathagu (Trade), Lucia Mulwa (Agriculture), Mohamed Dagane (Roads), Hiten Majevdia (Health) and Newton Munene (ICT& E-Government).

But the haemorrhage did not stop there as two chief officers also left to dabble in politics, with former Food and Agriculture Chief Officer Halkano Waqo and his counterpart in Water, Energy and Sanitation Mohamed Abdi, who was also the acting Devolution chief officer, resigning in February.

Mr Waqo is seeking the Saku parliamentary seat in Marsabit County, while Mr Abdi is interested in the Lafey parliamentary seat in Mandera County.

Pipeline and Kware have been in the spotlight for the chaotic construction of residential buildings.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The net effect has been a county government that has now become synonymous with the term “acting” attached to almost every position.

Ms Gathagu currently heads the Lands and Housing department in an acting capacity. So does Mr Wambua in the Devolution docket and Ms Mulwa in Education and Sports.

New acting chief officer

Agriculture and Forestry Director Mary Kibira is acting in the same department, while Mario Kainga is the new acting chief officer for Water, Energy and Sanitation.

To fill the vacant Devolution and Administration chief officer position, director of sub-county administration Joel Muli took over the role in an acting capacity.

The governor is nowadays only seen accompanying other leaders – President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) Director Lt-Gen Mohamed Badi – to launch their projects.

To break the monotony, she has always been a willing attendee of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party rallies.

Indeed, her Executive Order reorganising her cabinet last week was vetoed by her Finance executive, who put brakes on her attempts to have Health Chief Officer Mohamed Sahal relinquish the Finance chief officer position.

She has now been left clutching at straws as she tries to exert her authority at City Hall as she says that she remains committed to “improving service delivery to all residents and businesses in the city”.

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