Laikipia county boss dismisses fence project graft claims

Laikipia governor Joshua Irungu has dismissed graft claims over construction of a Sh96.7 million fence around the Marmanet and Rumuruti forests.

The project was meant to end perennial cases of human-wildlife conflicts in Laikipia West, but questions were raised after it stalled a month after it commenced last year. Mr Irungu said that some of the money has not been spent.

“We have not even utilised half of the funds that had been set aside for the purpose. The project is still in progress and we are assuring residents that it will be completed by the end of the year,” said the governor.

Speaking in Nyahururu town, Mr Irungu accused local leaders of politicising the project.

“The allegations are false, they are being propagated by our rivals who want to paint a bad picture of my administration,” he said. Some local leaders, including lawmakers, have demanded that the governor accounts for the money.

Laikipia West MP Wachira Karani has demanded an audit on how the county administration used the money. And Laikipia Women Representative Jane Apollos said the project had not helped residents living near forests as elephants were still invading their farms.

Mrs Apollos accused the county administration of paying the contractor despite the shoddy work done, with reports from residents that elephants were still jumping over some already-fenced parts.

She lamented that although county officials had assured the public that the fence would be completed in six months, only a few kilometres had been done so far.

Ward representatives Joseph Kabachi and Francis Mukuria have previously questioned the procurement details of the project.

In July, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission wrote to the county government asking to be supplied with original documents relating to the award of the tender for the project.

Among the documents the agency sought were 2014/15 procurement plans, approved 2014/15 budgets, requisition and approval for the projects, engineers’ estimates and tender advertisements.

Others were bid documents, minutes from tender-opening meetings and evaluation and site visit committees, attendance register, award/regret letters to the bidders, and invoices and payment vouchers.

Governor Irungu said about 40 kilometres had been fenced already. He argued that the fenced section was evidence that the funds had been put to good use.