The move by the Governor Stanley Kiptis to grace the commissioning of a Sh4 million lift and ramp at the Baringo County Assembly on Wednesday has sparked an uproar among residents who claimed that the devolved unit had ignored pertinent issues affecting the locals that needed to be addressed and focused in projects that were not benefiting them.
The governor's administration has come under sharp criticism from ward representatives and locals who have complained of stalled projects and misplaced priorities in the region.
The lift and the ramp is part of Sh30 million flagship projects at the assembly building that comprises the addition of two extra floors and a face lift of the ultra-modern public gallery.
The disgruntled locals claimed most of the roads in the region are impassable, health facilities had no drugs and they have been forced to travel for long distances to access water and have to deal perennial insecurity among other challenges.
"I am wondering how the county government could spend millions of shillings in the construction of an elevator, and worse still; convene a ceremony for its launch when thousands of locals are on the verge of starvation due to drought. We are yet to hear of any plans they have concerning the same," said an agitated resident, Shadrack Kipsang.
Mr Zakayo Kerewo questioned if the county government was really having any strategic plan on its development, claiming that they had little to show on development projects touching their lives.
"We need the Governor to tell us what his administration has done concerning development projects in this county because we are seeing none. It is a mockery for them to commission a lift when some families in the region are living below a dollar and are on the verge of starvation owing to the long dry spell. Some families displaced by floods in Marigat last year are still living in deplorable conditions with no homes," said Kerewo.
A section of ward representatives also waded into the debate during the commissioning of the elevator by questioning the county boss on the slow implementation of development projects in the region, threatening that he risks being voted out in the general elections.
Tirioko ward MCA Sam Lourien complained that many projects in the region are normally rolled over to the next fiscal year, a situation that has slowed its implementation.
"My ward, in Tiaty which is in a remote area in this county, is the worst hit with many projects almost turning white elephant. I want to point a finger to the executive for these mistakes. We are told that tenders of the said projects normally gather dust in the procurement department for more than a year in the name of bureaucracy," said Mr Lourien.
Nominated MCA Francis Kibai said a lot of projects had stalled in the region since the Governor took over office in 2017, a scenario that has contributed to locals lacking vital services including health, water and education.
"There is a delay of the long rains and some areas have experienced total crop failure. The devolved unit should be focusing on pertinent issues such as constructing dams and water pans and other things that would change the living standards of the locals. We are still grappling with the perennial water scarcity, a situation that would have been solved a long time ago if the right priorities were put in place," said Mr Kibai.
Kabarnet ward MCA Ernest Kibet also complained over uneven distribution of projects, with some wards still lagging behind in development for many years.
However, Governor Kiptis said the devolved unit had overstretched their budget and urged the MCAs to identify major flagship projects instead of many projects in one financial year, claiming that phasing them would drag for several years.
He also asked the procurement and chief officers to scrutinize the capacity of a contractor before giving out tenders, noting that many incapacitated contractors had contributed to stalling of projects in the region.
He also hit out at local leaders who were claiming that the tendering process in the county was skewed and only awarded to his allies.
"I want to make it very clear that procurement processes normally goes through the stipulated law. Those claiming that I influence the awarding of tenders are engaging in cheap politicking. I am not tasked in giving out tenders and I don't carry procurement documents in my car or keep them in my residence as claimed by some quarters," said the governor.
The sentiments come barely three weeks after contractors and suppliers in Baringo County accused the devolved unit of nepotism and corruption in tender awarding processes, claiming that the procurement department only considers those who are willing to give kickbacks.
In a letter addressed to the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA) by the Baringo Contractors Association, the group is now asking the Authority, with the help of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate the matter as they demand the ongoing awarding of contracts be stopped and proper procurement procedures be followed.
In the complaint lodged by its chairman William Chebii, the group claimed that procurement and tendering process in the region have been conducted in secrecy, favoritism and bias contrary to the Procurement and Disposal Act of 2015.
"The procurement department has repeatedly awarded tenders to same individuals over and over despite various applications and participation of several players. The contractors and suppliers in this region are concerned in the manner in which the tender or procurement committee is constituted because it seems it is a one man's show operated like a private entity whereas it is a public entity," the letter said.
The group also complained that tenders are only awarded to friends and cronies of Governor Kiptis or potential contractors who are eligible to 'cough' out some cash and kickbacks, without competitive bidding.
Tenges MCA Silas Tochim, who is also a close ally of the county boss, raised concern that a lot of projects initiated last year had not started, yet it had followed the due process of public participation and money allocated to it.
He claimed that millions of shillings meant for development in the region will be rolled over to the next financial year due to what he cited as incompetence by the executive.
"There are more than 12 projects in my ward that have stalled for more than six months yet money was allocated to it. We cannot sit and watch anymore and someone should be answerable on what is happening in Baringo because most of them will be rolled over to the next financial year," said Mr Tochim.
The MCA threatened that if the projects won't be completed in the next two months, he will sponsor a motion at the assembly to impeach the Governor over incompetence.
"We are there to do oversight. We will not allow projects to be rolled over to the next fiscal year and I am ready to join the bandwagon in lobbying for signatures to impeach the Governor if this is the case because it has become a norm," said the ward representative.
He attributed the delay of the projects to the executive who allegedly lobby for kickbacks from the contractors.
"This is a friendly advice to the governor that you need to put your house in order because the stalled projects will cost you your seat in 2022. We need to be answerable to the electorates on why this is happening yet money was allocated to them," said the MCA.