Governor Njuki, Speaker clash over Tharaka-Nithi County headquarters

Muthomi Njuki

From left: Tharaka-Nithi Senator Mwenda Gataya, Senate Standing Committee on Devolution Chairperson Ms Catherine Mumma and Governor Muthomi Njuki at his residence in Kajuki on January 21, 2023. 

Photo credit: Alex Njeru| Nation Media Group

The relocation of Tharaka-Nithi County offices from Chuka town to the gazetted headquarters in Kathwana town will take time as leaders continue to accuse each other of sabotaging the process.

The Senate Standing Committee on Devolution visited the county on Saturday to establish why the offices had remained in Chuka town since 2013. 

During the tour, Governor Muthomi Njuki and Tharaka-Nithi the County Assembly Speaker John Mbabu clashed over the operationalising of the new county headquarters.

The governor claimed the county assembly offices had remained in Chuka town because the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) stopped the construction of multi-million shilling chambers and offices in Kathwana over an alleged fraudulent tendering process, making the construction of the building to stall at the foundation stage since 2015.

Speaker Mbabu dismissed the claims and accused the governor of sabotaging the construction of the building to ensure the assembly offices remain in Chuka town.

“The EACC stopped construction of the chambers and offices at the foundation stage in 2015 to investigate a suspected fraudulent tendering process,” said Governor Njuki. 

Kathwana

Stalled Sh400 million Tharaka-Nithi County executive office building at Kathwana.

Photo credit: Alex Njeru | Nation Media Group

He argued that the anti-graft agency had barred the Controller of Budget from allowing any payments for the work until the investigations are concluded. Speaker, however, claimed the governor had been allocating money in the budget every year for the building only to divert it to other works.

Sh486 million

Mr Njuki also claimed that the proposed chamber is bigger than the National Assembly and that it would cost the county Sh486 million. Mr Mbabu said the earlier cost was Sh360 million and that the amount had reduced after reducing the size of the building.

 “The government has put a ceiling on how much a county should spend in the construction of the chambers and we are within the range. The alleged Sh486 million by the governor is a fake figure,” said Mr Mbabu.

The Speaker said during campaigns in the 2017 elections, Mr Njuki used the EACC claims to sabotage the progress of the county and that such a case does not exist.

He noted that they were never summoned to the EACC offices in Isiolo to record any statement over the building.

In a recent interview, the EACC Upper Eastern region boss George Ojowi told Nation.Africa that there was no such a case in his office. He said that the case was not handed over to him by his predecessor Ignatius Wekesa who was the regional boss in 2015.

 “I am not aware of any investigations involving the said building and there is no single document in my office concerning the same,” said Mr Ojowi.

Faulted 

The Senate Devolution Committee led by chairperson, Ms Catherine Mumma promised to ensure that all Tharaka-Nithi County offices in Chuka town are relocated to Kathwana.

She said they decided to visit the county after Senator Mwenda Gataya petitioned the Senate to establish why Kathwana was a ghost headquarters after 10 years of devolution.

Muthomi Njuki

 Tharaka-Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki (right) walks out of the county assembly chambers with speaker John Mbabu on October 4, 2022.

Photo credit: Alex Njeru | Nation Media Group

 “It is embarrassing for the MCAs to continue debating in such a structure after 10 years of devolution, we will establish the truth about the stalled building,” said Ms Mumma.

She said the committee will also ensure that all national government offices are relocated to Kathwana.  

Chuka/Igambang’ombe Member of Parliament Patrick Munene, who also attended the sitting, said that there was a need to fully operationalise the county headquarters and that it was a shame for the MCAs to continue debating in temporary chambers made of iron sheets 10 years of devolution.

 “This is embarrassing and we must all endeavour to fully operationalise our county headquarters by relocating all the offices from Chuka town to Kathwana,” said Mr Munene.

Sh400 million

The governor blamed the national government for the stalled Sh400 million county executive offices block whose construction started in 2015.

He said the building is funded by the national government through the Ministry of Works.  

Mr Njuki said he had tried his best to grow the headquarters by tarmacking the streets and connecting it to piped water.  

“Kathwana was a dusty market when I was elected governor, I have done a lot of things to improve it,” he said.

He said he had allowed the MCAs to relocate from the iron-sheet chambers to a social hall near his office but they declined to move there insisting that he should allocate money for the completion of the stalled building.

Senator Gataya said he will not relent until the county headquarters is fully operationalised.  

“I will do everything possible to ensure that all the officers who are supposed to operate from Kathwana relocate from Chuka town because it is the gazette headquarters,” said Gataya.

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