Busia set to shed 110 jobs as governor house gets cash

Busia governor Sospeter Ojaamong. Residents
Busia governor Sospeter Ojaamong. Residents have protested a plan to build a Sh50 million house for the governor, saying it is not a priority. JACOB OWITI 

Busia has failed to factor in the salaries of 110 employees hired irregularly in its Sh5.5 billion budget that will see the county build a new house for the Governor.  

Godfrey Odongo, the chairman of the budget and appropriation committee reckons that the assembly had approved the hiring of 51 workers, but the Sospeter Ojaamong-led government hired 161 officers.

He added that the wage bill reduction is aimed at instilling discipline on county assembly resolutions and rein in salaries budget to free up cash for development spending. “The newly recruited staff is more than 150, three times the number of vacancies advertised and six times the number provided for in the budget for hiring,” said Mr Odongo.

The county sought new staff including Hansard reporter, ICT assistant, personnel secretary, drivers, research officers, sergeant at arm, legal counsel, librarian, and office assistant through a press notice on September 2013.

But the allocation of Sh50 million for the first phase of the governor’s residence has triggered protests from residents with many saying it’s not a priority.

Last year, the Assembly allocated Sh20 million for the official residence of the governor and Sh5 million has so far been used to buy 10 acres of land near Bugeng’i Primary School in Nambale Sub County.

Currently, Mr Ojaamong stays in his own house in the county.

Misplaced priorities

“These are misplaced priorities. The town is dirty with poor drainage and no street lights yet a lot of money is being set aside for the governor’s palatial home,” said Tom Onyango, a resident of Busia.

He added that agriculture being the pillar of Busia’s economy is not getting its fair share of funding.

The health sector took a sizeable share of the Sh5.5 billion budget with an allocation of Sh1.2 billion, mainly driven by medical staff wages. Finance and Economic planning docket was second with Sh580 million while Agriculture was allocated Sh416 million.

The County Executive for Lands and Housing, Martin Kafwa, defended Busia’s real estate investments, adding that it will open up undeveloped zones.

“It is going to be a complex in terms of high-rise houses that will accommodate the leaders,” said Mr Kafwa, arguing that the governor’s complex will be built outside the urban zone that will lead to growth of the town beyond its boundaries.

Most county chiefs have no official residences with some having been forced to spend time in hotels. Kilifi Governor, Amason Kingi, kicked up a storm when his county bought an official residence for Sh145 million with many people saying it was not a priority.

The bulk of Busia’s budget will be funded by allocations from the national Treasury of Sh3.9 billion.

Bukhayo North ward representative Gardi Jakaa said the setting aside of Sh45 million for the purchase of land for Busia airport was commendable, adding that it will attract Ugandans to use the airport for their exports.