Protesters storm Nandi Governor Stephen Sang's office, put him to task over use of public funds

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang addresses protestors who stormed his office demanding accountability on the utilisation of public funds on July 10, 2024.

Photo credit: Barnabas Bii | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Sang had earlier claimed that the protesters were sponsored by his political rivals who were out to undermine him.
  • The governor was forced to hold an open-air crisis meeting with the protesters, where he defended the development record

The anti-tax demonstrations and the demand for accountability of public funds have reached the counties after thousands of protesters, mostly Gen Z and millennials, on Tuesday confronted Nandi Governor Stephen Sang over the utilisation of funds received from the National Treasury.

The placard-waving demonstrators stormed the governor's office demanding an explanation on how more than Sh50 billion was spent during his two terms in office.

The administrator was forced to hold an open-air crisis meeting with the protesters, where he defended the development record, pointing out that he had not been involved in corrupt dealings, but was dismissed by the rowdy youths who demanded a forensic audit of the administrative and financial mismanagement in the county.

“I have been audited by the anti-graft body Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the report revealed no wrongdoing and I will ensure proper accountability on utilisation of public funds,” said Governor Sang.

But the protesters claimed that the administrator had 'pocketed' the EACC and the county assembly and called on the administrator to act on allegations of rampant corruption in the devolved unit.

He received a petition from the demonstrators, led by Mark Kirwa, who gave the administrator and the EACC a one-week ultimatum to address their grievances, failing which they would stage further protests.

The meeting almost degenerated into a shouting match when Mr Sang claimed that there were enough drugs in the public health centres, but the protesters decried the deplorable state of most of the facilities, which they said were characterised by recurrent shortages of drugs and staff and breakdown of equipment.

Political rivals

Mr Sang had earlier claimed that the protesters were sponsored by his political rivals who were out to undermine him.

This comes as the fate of the County Government Finance Bill, 2024, hangs in the balance following the nationwide anti-tax demonstrations, while the devolved units continue to experience underperformance in internal revenue generation and huge pending bills.

Some of the counties have shelved plans to implement the proposed Finance Bill to avert the wrath of the protesters, mainly Gen Z and millennials, over the implementation of the new levies and charges that will affect their revenue generation and service delivery.

Nandi protesters

Protesters outside Nandi County headquarters on July 10, 2024.

Photo credit: Barnabas Bii | Nation Media Group

Council of Governors (CoG) whip Stephen Sang of Nandi said counties have been hit hard by the youth-led anti-government protests that have worsened the budget deficit and threatened to cripple service delivery.

"The protests have degraded our budget shortfall, but going forward, as a council, we want to have a conversation with the youth on how to manage county affairs, including the budget-making process," said Mr Sang.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and his Makueni counterpart Mutula Kilonzo have announced the withdrawal of the county finance bill to avert street demonstrations, and more counties are likely to follow suit.

Avert further protests

"As a council, we are ready to engage the Gen Zs at the county level to avert further protests that have resulted in destruction of property and loss of lives. We commend President William Ruto's initiative to extend an olive branch to dialogue with the youth on the affairs of the country," Mr Sang added.

The protests have sparked fear among Members of the County Assembly (MCAs), who said they would be extra cautious in approving levies and fees that affect the public.

"You have heard them - the protesters say - tutawasalimia handshake, meaning they will harass us in the political forums, our homes or at any event if we approve taxes that hurt them. There is a need to address their issues at the district level to avoid confrontation," said Julius Kipruto MCA, Chemundu/Kapng'etuny Ward.

However, the counties have been flagged for misappropriation of public funds, non-payment of debts while internal revenue generation remains low and poor budgeting practices.

The Auditor General, Nancy Gathungu, has taken issue with the failure of the devolved unit to establish the forum as required by the Finance and Management Act.

According to the Auditor General's report, the purpose of the forum is to provide a means for the county government to prepare county plans, the County Fiscal Strategy Paper and the Budget Review.