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Sunday, August 5th, 2018

 

Justin Muturi puts MPs to task over World Cup trip


Wetang'ula, Khalwale urge locals to reject Raila Odinga

By SHABAN MAKOKHA
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By GAITANO PESSA
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Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale have asked western Kenya residents to abandon ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The three downplayed last week’s meeting between Mr Odinga and local leaders.

Mr Wetang’ula praised Mr Washiali for skipping the Tuesday meeting organised by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

Addressing mourners at the burial of Fanice Anyango, the mother to Mr Festo Fadamula who contested the Mumias West parliamentary seat in 2017, Mr Wetang’ula urged western Kenya to lock Mr Odinga out of the region’s politics.

The senator said Mr Odinga has turned the region into a laughing stock.

“It is time for western to unite and forge its destiny. We need to agree on this,” the Ford Kenya leader said.

“My coming together with ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa shows we are on the right path as a region,” he said.

UNITY CALLS

But in Busia County, MPs Raphael Wanjala (Budalang’i) and Wilberforce Mudenyo (Funyula) said western is firmly behind Mr Odinga. They dismissed calls for Luhya unity as selfish.

The two said the region is united “as was evident when it supported Mr Odinga’s presidential bid in 2017”.

“Some people are bothering us with unity calls. Who told them we are not united? We are not at war with anyone,” Mr Wanjala said.

He added that the same leaders have failed to show their influence in the region by “calling for public rallies and have instead confined themselves to funerals”.

“You insist that Raila supports a Luhya presidential candidate yet you have not shown your clout. Put your house in order first,” Mr Wanjala said.

STATE JOBS

Dr Mudenyo dared those threatening to leave the National Super Alliance to do so “instead of airing their grievances in public gatherings”.

“You said the divorce would be messy but it never came to pass. The best you can do is to leave Nasa in peace,” Mr Mudenyo said of Senator Wetang’ula.

Earlier, Mr Washiali said Mr Odinga is using the handshake with the President for political gain.

“He should focus on helping the President realise the ‘Big Four’ agenda,” Mr Washiali said.

He laughed off the Tuesday meeting “which Mr Odinga asked leaders to forward the names of people to be considered for government positions”.


Rashid Echesa’s claim stirs debate on a looming Cabinet reshuffle

By NATION TEAM
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Amid rife speculations of a looming Cabinet reshuffle, Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa stirred heated debate on Saturday when he sensationally claimed that ODM leader Raila Odinga is promising his job to opposition supporters.

Mr Echesa’s remarks come amid speculation that President Uhuru Kenyatta is planning to sack some of the ministers mentioned in corruption scandals, or those who have failed in their roles to pave way for opposition figures allied to Mr Odinga following the duo’s March 9 peace deal.

Mr Echesa, who had previously worked with ODM, said the opposition leader had “been acting as if he is in government” after the handshake.

“This government is led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, and Raila should stop intimidating those of us who have been appointed to serve as Cabinet secretaries as if he has become an appointing authority,” Mr Echesa told Nation in an interview.

Mr Echesa claimed that Mr Odinga had in a Tuesday meeting with 17 western Kenya MPs and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya “promised” to have him sacked in favour of other leaders from the region allied to the opposition leader.

He made the remarks during a funeral at Musanda, Mumias West in Kakamega County, which were widely circulated on social media yesterday.

Mr Echesa is one of at least seven ministers said to be under siege for fear that they could be targeted in the purge.

Analysts argue that the ministers in the firing line could be those with adverse mentions by various parliamentary committees, those who have fallen out of favour with their boss, and some who will be kicked out to allow regional balance.

While Mr Echesa’s fears cannot be confirmed, the utterances have increased speculation of an impending reshuffle.

But yesterday, ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi told off Mr Echesa, warning him against “endless politicking, yet he is a civil servant”.

“It is Raila who brought him to the limelight when he appointed him a youth leader. He should respect him,” Mr Sifuna said at Madeya P.A.G Church in Vihiga County.

Mr Osotsi asked Mr Echesa to apologise to Mr Odinga in the next 48 hours, while Mr Malala called on CSs to stick to their mandates “rather than politicking in funerals”.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his East African Community counterpart Adan Mohamed (formerly of Trade) have been indicted by a parliamentary committee investigating the entry of poisonous sugar in the country.

While Mr Rotich has been fingered for allowing the entry of the sugar through a notice he gave, the committee has recommended that Mr Mohamed be answerable for complacency by the Kenya Bureau of Standards in inspecting the imported sugar.

RUARAKA LAND

The committee also wants former Agriculture minister Willy Bett to be investigated for recommending duty waivers for about 14 companies said to have imported sugar outside the gazetted period.

At the same time, another committee investigating the payment of the Sh1.5 billion Ruaraka land has adversely mentioned Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, with his successor in the education docket Amina Mohamed telling the committee that no due diligence was taken by the ministry over the land’s compensation saga.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has been facing consistent calls for his resignation following the death of 11 rhinos, and his “go to hell” retort to those he said wanted him to step aside.

Health’s Sicily Kariuki survived an impeachment motion following scandals at Kenyatta National Hospital. Further, the National Youth Service lost taxpayer’s money under her watch as the Youth CS.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi argued that while investigations by House committees were only preliminary, guilt or otherwise will only be established by courts after probes by investigating agencies.

“The fact that many CSs were adversely mentioned is not nice. It doesn’t portend well for the CSs, especially when they are adversely mentioned in the reports. It is a bad image.”

Ford Kenya Deputy Party leader Boni Khalwale said: “There are far too many CSs adversely mentioned by Parliament, and President Kenyatta should either do a purge of the Cabinet or admit that they do not have the muscle to run Kenya, and we go for another election.”

By Patrick Lang’at, Benson Amadala, David Mwere, and Derick Luvega


Govt staring at crisis over Sh100bn bills

By DAVID MWERE
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The national government is staring at a crisis of offsetting more than Sh100 billion in pending bills owed to various suppliers and entities.

The amount is strewn across government ministries, departments, commissions, independent offices and state corporations, among others.

The National Youth Service (NYS), under the ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender has Sh5.6 billion in pending bills from 2013 to 2017, the highest among state departments.

In July, Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia froze the payment of the bills as she unveiled a team to audit their validity.

At more than Sh20 billion, the Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC), under the ministry of Energy, has the highest pending bills when it comes to state corporations.

AMOUNT OWED

The figure emanates from the Sh65 billion for its pipeline enhancement project, where the government is yet to pay a third of the cost.

The pileup comes as the county governments face a similar problem — a daunting task of clearing Sh99 billion.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich on Sunday said he could not give the exact figure, as it was a weekend and he was out of office.

But according to the 2015/16 report of the auditor general, the national government had not paid bills amounting to Sh20.5 billion.

The amount was a decrease of 53 per cent from the previous year’s figure of Sh43.2 billion.

Auditor-General Edward Ouko noted that the Sh20.5 billion comprised Sh18.1 billion and Sh0.92 billion under recurrent and development votes respectively, and a further Sh1.5 billion that is not classified.

He said the failure to clear the bills as required saw them carried forward to 2016/17 financial year, whose audit report has not been presented to the National Assembly for consideration.

According to the National Assembly Public Investments Committee chairman Abdulswamad Shariff, there should be no pending bills.

“Pending bills have been recurring since 2011 and even before that. One wonders why they are always pushed to the next financial year,” Mr Shariff said.

According to the Public Finance Management Act, a procuring entity is prohibited from tendering for projects if it has no budget.

The law further provides that money allocated to a project should not be diverted for other use.

According to Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu, it is a practice that may not die soon.

“They always blame it on Ifmis and the failure by Treasury to release funds. In some instances, the pending bills are questionable,” Dr Eseli said.


Kajiado, Kiambu surpass polio vaccination coverage targets

By ANGELA OKETCH
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Kajiado and Kiambu counties surpassed polio vaccination coverage targets in the first phase of the immunisation drive, the Ministry of Health has revealed.

Whereas the target is 95 per cent, Kajiado reached 124 while Kiambu attained 119 per cent.

This, the ministry of Health said, was achieved through various partner collaborations which created awareness among residents.

However, Isiolo and Meru did not achieve the 95 per cent target. They attained 94 and 93 per cent respectively.

The campaign was done in 12 high-risk counties, namely Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Lamu, Tana River, Kitui, Meru, Isiolo, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nairobi.

Machakos was third with 111 per cent coverage followed by Wajir with 108, Lamu was fifth with 106 and Tana River achieving 101 per cent.

The national vaccination coverage stood at 103 per cent.

Nairobi County was at seventh position with 100 per cent, then Kitui (99), Garissa (98), Mandera (97), Isiolo (94) while Meru was last with 93 per cent.

Dr Daniel Lang’at from the Health ministry’s Disease Surveillance and Response Unit said insecurity challenges in Isiolo and some resistance from a section of religious leaders in Meru County prevented them from attaining the required percentage.

“When we started the polio campaign, there were security operations in Isiolo.

“Communities were fighting and vaccinators had to run away while in Meru, parents were afraid of taking their children for vaccination because a section of religious leaders termed it as a bad move, hence the low percentage,” Dr Lang’at said.

The campaign targeted 2.4 million children under five years but 2.5 million children were immunised (103 per cent).

According to Dr Lang’at, the campaign was in response to Polio Virus type 2 isolated from a sewage in Eastleigh, Kamukunji sub-county, in April.

The sewage sample was collected in March and the results were linked to two viruses isolated in Somalia in October last year.

The virus is capable of causing paralysis in unprotected/unvaccinated individuals.

The report was shared with the Global Polio Advisory group which recommended three rounds (0,1,2) of polio vaccination campaigns to boost immunity among vulnerable children.

Round 0 was conducted in Nairobi in May 2018 targeting 817,782 children — 94 per cent of the target was achieved.

Round one was conducted in 12 high-risk counties, including Nairobi.

It was conducted between July 11 and 15 and targeted over two million children.

Round two, which will be officially launched today in Kitui County, will be repeated in the 12 counties and will be done between August 4 and 8.

This phase will target 2.8 million children.

“We are going to use a house-to-house strategy. A team of vaccinators and volunteers will be moving from house-to-house and will be giving two drops of oral polio vaccine to all children under five years.

“Immunisation will also be done in health facilities and temporarily fixed posts — schools, churches and bus stops for transit children,” Dr Langát said.

He disputed allegations that the vaccine causes fever, urging parents not to fear since the vaccine is safe and has no effect on children.

“The vaccine we are using is extremely safe; it acts in the intestines and does not get to the blood. It triggers the response within the gastrointestinal system,” he said.


Indebted counties blame Treasury for money woes

By NATION TEAM
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Delays by the National Treasury in the disbursement of funds to counties are causing havoc across the country as key services, including health, agriculture and roads, go unfunded and traders face the auctioneer’s hammer.

Patients in health centres where drugs have not been supplied for months are some of the most affected.

From the coast to the west, it is a tale of pain for many people.

In Bungoma County for example, residents say the last time Kabuchai Health Centre received medicine supplies was in December last year.

At least two patients have died in the facility in recent weeks due to what is said to be lack of medicine.

Farmers are also suffering because agricultural extension services have virtually collapsed.

In the North Rift, a showdown is looming between contractors and county governments over unpaid dues for work done.

Some of the contractors and suppliers have threatened to move to court to recover the money amounting to billions of shillings.

In Nandi, the county government owes road contractors Sh1.2 billion for services provided between 2014 and 2018.

Some of the contractors have sued the county government to recover their money after banks that advanced them loans moved to auction them.

“I took several bank overdrafts and soft loans from friends to complete a road project, trusting that the County Government would pay but it has taken almost two years without receiving payment,” Mr Luka Ruto, a road contractor, said.

“The county government has never honoured its pledge to settle the payment despite waiting for too long,” Mr Mathew Mutwol said.

The County Executive in charge of Finance, Mr Alfred Keter, blamed the situation on delays by the National Treasury in making the payment.

“We have to wait for disbursement of funds from the National Treasury to enable us settle the pending bills,” he said.

In Trans Nzoia, some contractors and suppliers have gone to court over pending bills amounting to Sh300 million.

According to court records, there are more than 10 suits filed by various individuals and companies against the regional government.

County Secretary Sifuna Wakofula also attributed the delayed payment to low local revenue generation.

“The failure to attain the set financial targets has subjected us to financial challenges but we are determined to settle the bills,” Mr Sifuna said.

DEVELOPMENT

In Kisumu, Finance executive Nerry Achar said Sh466 million is owed for development while Sh180 million is for recurrent expenditure.

He blames this for huge debt they inherited from the previous administration.

“We inherited Sh3.5 billion. And out of this, we have managed to pay and reduce the amount to Sh646 million,” Mr Achar said in an interview with the Nation.

He indicated that they have to rebudget to ensure they clear some of the debts.

In Mombasa, the county government said the debts had led to some development projects stalling.

“We cannot give an approximate amount of money that we have as pending bills because the debt has been accumulating every year. But it is getting worse as we speak especially on matters development,” Communications director Richard Chacha said.

INHERITED DEBT

In Tana River, the administration said it was yet to pay Sh900 million to its contractors.

Finance executive Matthew Babwoya said the county government had cleared pending bills to the tune of Sh800 million this year, and was still in the process of rolling out payment of other bills.

“Since we came into office, we have been battling with the issue of pending bills that have threatened to derail our activities, but we have already started addressing them,” he said.

He said the National Treasury was yet to disburse cash for May and June 2018.

The new administration had inherited pending bills amounting to Sh1.7 billion. The debts are a huge blow to the development plans.

In Taita Taveta, the devolved unit said it has started paying some of the pending bills inherited from the previous regime.

Economic adviser Sylvester Mwaliko said contractors and suppliers will be paid according to a report that was forwarded to Governor Granton Samboja.

He said that out of the Sh900 million owed to the contractors and suppliers, more than Sh500 million could not be paid due to lack of documents.


Fury over KPC plan to bill marketers Sh1bn for losses


Nairobi set to establish breast milk bank at Pumwani

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi County is set to establish a breast milk bank, which will be the first of its kind in the country.

Plans are under way to bring the milk bank to the city as a joint initiative between the Ministry of Health and an NGO, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (Path).

Speaking at the hospital during the launch of the World Breastfeeding Week last week on Thursday, Governor Mike Sonko said the facility would set up a breast milk bank to help babies who cannot get breast milk from their mothers for reasons such as death, poor health or absence.

“Pumwani, which was accredited by WHO as a baby-friendly hospital in 1992, is a regional hub of excellence in the care of premature babies and is preparing to establish the first breast milk bank at this very hospital,” Mr Sonko said.

CHILD DEATH

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, who was the function’s chief guest, said the government would implement the provisions for establishment of breastfeeding centres in firms as spelled out in the 2017 Health Act.

“Breastfeeding is a low-cost and high-impact practice that reduces the number of babies who die.

“Mothers should adopt the World Health Organization guidelines to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of a baby’s life.

“This should be followed by continued breastfeeding coupled with the introduction of other foods until the child is up to two years and beyond,” she said.

Some 39,000 babies die every year in the country due to neonatal complications. It is estimated that the bank will help prevent at least 10 per cent of the neonatal deaths when established.

Ms Kariuki said her ministry would set the pace by setting up a breastfeeding station at Afya House headquarters in Nairobi.

“Breastfeeding is a baby’s first vaccine and the best source of nutrition. It is therefore a universal solution that lays the foundation for good health and survival for children,” she said.

The WHO has recommended that countries facilitate and expand the use of donated human milk to make it more available and accessible to babies in need.

Scientific findings and WHO recommendations aside, public doubts on the suitability of donated breast milk still persist.

According to an unpublished study carried out in Nairobi in 2016-2017 by Path and the African Population Health and Research Center (APHRC), many women view breast milk as the best food for children, but still have valid concerns about the safety of donated milk.

Chief among the women’s concerns is breast milk’s ability to pass HIV to suckling infants.

More than 500 human milk banks have been established in 37 countries around the globe including South Africa, India, France, Japan Brazil and Canada.


School tragedy: Pain, anger after bus crash kills pupils

By KITAVI MUTUA
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By OUMA WANZALA
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A school community in Mwingi town is mourning the lives of 10 pupils whose lives were cut short in a grisly road crash on Saturday night.

The pupils from St Gabriel’s Boarding Primary School, a private academy run by the Kitui Catholic Diocese, were returning home from a five-day study tour in Mombasa when their school bus collided with a truck near Mwingi town at around 11pm on Saturday night.

Eight pupils died on the spot, six others were seriously injured, and more than 20 suffered various degrees of injury.

Two more from the seriously injured six, who were referred to Kenyatta National Hospital from Mwingi Level Four Hospital, succumbed to excessive bleeding moments later, the first one on the way to Nairobi and the second while undergoing treatment at KNH.

RESCUE MISSION

The accident happened as parents of the 39 pupils in the bus waited to receive their children just two kilometres away.

They all trooped to the accident scene, where they were met with the loud, horrific wails of their children from the bottom of a river at Kanginga.

A marathon rescue operation ensued under the cover of darkness as the parents desperately tried to retrieve the injured from the wreckage before police arrived and rushed them to hospital.

The truck driver attempted to flee from the scene towards Nairobi but was arrested 15 kilometres away. He will be arraigned today.

The pupils had travelled for about 600 kilometres from the coastal town where they had toured, some for the first time, the historical Fort Jesus, Kenyatta Public Beach, and Moi International Airport, among others.

DRIVER INJURED

Those who died were among the best performers in Standard Eight, the academic stars of a school that prides itself in a long tradition of academic excellence in Mwingi, Kitui and beyond.

Catholic Diocesan Education Secretary Fr Julius Muthamba said the accident was a big disaster to not only the school, but also the entire Kitui County.

Kitui Central OCPD Muthuri Mwongera said the bus driver appeared to have lost control after colliding with the truck on a narrow bridge before plunging into the river.

“Preliminary investigations show the bus was hit on the right hand side and the pupils that died were seated on that side. It veered off the road and landed on the river bed,” Mr Mwongera said.

On board were also three teachers and the school matron.

The driver, Mr Vundi Ngathu, said the pupils were in high spirits and were singing hymns as they prepared to meet with their parents after a five-day tour.

He suffered a gash on his forehead. The vehicle, part of a two-bus convoy hired by the school for the tour, had been on the road since 7am on Saturday, save for several stopovers on the way.

NIGHT TRAVEL

The school’s board chairman, Nairobi lawyer Christopher Nzili, who travelled with the pupils, said all had been well since they left Mombasa.

“We had hoped to get home early but the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway delayed us,” he explained.

“The pupils who died were among our best. They had been eager to learn and shared with their friends back home.”

Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and MPs Charles Nguna (Mwingi West) and Gideon Mulyungi (Mwingi Central) were among leaders who rushed to condole with the bereaved families.

Mr Musyoka said it was “extremely saddening that such young learners met their untimely end in a road tragedy just when their lives were starting to bloom — and when they had so much hope, expectation and promise”.

He asked school administrators “to avoid putting the lives of our young ones at risk through night travel” as the tragedy could probably have been avoided “had proper plans been put in place to ensure that the learners were only allowed to travel during day time”.

SAFETY RULES

According to the Traffic (Amendment) Act of 2017, motor vehicles transporting children to or from school, or on any non-school related activity, must be fitted with safety belts designed to be used by children; be painted yellow, and have other signage as may be prescribed.

They must also comply with the conditions imposed on Passenger Service Vehicles and should not operate between 10pm and 5am.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, speaking in Nairobi, said she would comment on the issue of night travel today after getting a detailed briefing of the accident, while President Uhuru Kenyatta condoled with the bereaved and wished the injured quick recovery.

“It is indeed sad and unfortunate that we lost those we look forward to to secure the future of our great nation,” President Kenyatta said.

Cases of learners being killed or injured through road crashes have been on the increase in recent times.

Last month, 14 pupils and a teacher from Mpopong Boarding Primary School in Narok County escaped death narrowly after their bus was involved in an accident on the Bomet-Sotik road.

The pupils were travelling to Kericho for a tour of tea factories.

In the same month, eight pupils from Kichare Primary School in Gwasi were seriously injured when their bus veered off the road and landed in a ditch near Ahero.


Youth week offers chance to align our plans with ‘Big Four’ agenda

By LETTERS
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The International Youth Day, whose activities will run from today until Sunday, is marked globally every August 12.

The official commemoration for this year will take place on Friday in Nairobi.

The theme ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’ is very timely, as it calls on the national and county governments to act on the youth agenda.

A number of activities will be taking place in the counties, starting with tree-planting in Makueni, where President Uhuru Kenyatta will officially flag off the youth week.

There will be activities and sessions aligned or inclined to the ‘Big Four’ agenda in the counties every day of the week.

Sunday will be the climax as President Uhuru Kenyatta will address leaders and select young people from all the counties in Kisii.

The ‘Big Four’ pillars — manufacturing, affordable housing, food security and universal health coverage (UHC) — are youth-focused and meant to create employment, improve lives and create wealth.

I challenge the government to invest energy and time for the populace to embrace and own the agenda. Interestingly, the four agendas are interlinked and dependent on one another.

On manufacturing, youth are the greatest beneficiaries, which cuts across all sectors and the ‘Big Four’.

In agriculture, I expect technology and creativity in having locally made organic fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, farm tools and equipment, solar-driven machines for agriculture, and so forth.

There is a plan to build thousands of affordable houses.

The youth have opportunities to manufacture affordable building materials.

They are also consumers and beneficiaries of housing as landlords and tenants.

AGRICULTURE

As for the UHC, there are opportunities for manufacturing of and research to produce cheap medicines and hospital equipment and other facilities.

Young graduates of technical and vocational training centres must begin to position themselves in spaces of large-scale tailoring, building and construction and motor vehicle engineering, among others, as these jobs will no longer be referred to ‘jua kali’.

It is high time we actualised the saying, “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy”.

It is unfortunate that the country’s farming age averages 60 years.

FOOD SECURITY

Youth are the main consumers of products from agriculture.

They provide the most labour and skills in the agricultural space.

What we eat has an effect on our health and, therefore, we must be involved in food production.

We have opportunities in the agricultural value chains from research or manufacturing of farm inputs and equipment, as well as the actual production through improved technology, value addition, marketing and sales of the products.

I look forward to the full implementation of the ‘Big Four’.

KELVIN KEYA, Vihiga.