Governor Ken Lusaka of BUNGOMA County
Governor Ken Lusaka of BUNGOMA County

Early in the year, there were damning revelations that Bungoma County had bought 32 acres of land in Musikoma at KSh6 million per acre. A total of Ksh192 million was paid for the land that is earmarked to house the Governor’s residence.

Three Issues:

(A) According to a surveyor on Teacher’s Plaza and who still handles various transactions in Bungoma town including Musikoma, the price of an acre of land in the same area only late last year was Ksh1 million. When did the price shoot to Sh6 million – meaning land in Bungoma in becoming even more expensive than some satellite towns of Nairobi!

(B) Why would a county need 32 acres to do the Governor’s residence. For comparative purposes, the Deputy President’s official residence in Karen sits on just 10 acres. What was the priority/urgency in acquiring 32 acres for the Governor’s house? The argument that the entire County Government would relocate to a new home is a sick excuse because that would involve county legislation – a move that on balance of probability could be defeated.

Here is a response from the Governor’s Communications Director. “It’s important to understand that an acre constitutes of 6plots. When you check market prices, you realize that a plot is being sold between 800k to even 1.1m. When you do the maths, it’s actually within market prices. This will be the official Governor’s residence, not just Governor Lusaka but future governors too.”

(C) Secondly, was the county buying land in terms of acres or plots? Could plots be a convenient means to inflate the price so that a few people pocket the difference?

(D) Some officials who have worked in the defunct Bungoma County Council say the same parcel of land was actually irregularly allocated to the individual who has only sold it back to the Government. It had been subject of debate in a commission of land whose report has been stashed away from the public. Was there collusion in buying land that should have been simply repossessed from a land grabber?

MILLING PLANT

Late last year, the County Government tabled plans to build a milling plant. An engineer who had also participated in designing a similar plant in Kiambu and Kisii was approached on design, installation, costing and even sourcing of the equipment. In January, the engineer submitted the report to the County Government – a copy to the Agriculture CEC Koyi and another to the Governor. In the technical report, the cost of the plant including cost of land, freight charges and normal appreciation of material was estimated at Sh376 million.

Two days after receiving the report, the Governor announced the adoption and implementation of the report and build a milling plant in Kamukuywa. What was, however, curious was the fact that the county was going to do so at Sh1.2 billion and NOT the engineer’s cost of Sh376 million. This is an inflation of prices by 319.14 per cent. Who is pocketing the Sh824 million difference? This is not theft. It is cannibalism. It is murder most foul. This is not a scheme that can be pulled off by mere officers. Without doubt, there is high-level connivance to skim off these huge monies from the taxpayer.

There has been the sick excuse that the Government isn’t sinking money in the venture and that Chinese investors will do it. Just how does this explain away the change in figures in just under 48 hours? Will the extra amount be recovered in kickbacks and then passed on in extended operations at that milling plant to recover the same? In Kisii, an avocado factory that started in May and which has a capacity to do 300 tonnes of avocado oil per day was built by Turkish and Australian investors at Sh150 million. Kiambu has already done their milling plant at Sh324 million. As usual, a similar project is costing Sh1.2 billion. This is why I thought the scam of wheelbarrows is child’s play.