The battlelines between Murang’a tycoon Peter Munga and Governor Mwangi Wa Iria have been drawn yet again after Equity Bank refused to change signatories of an account held by Murang’a Water and Sanitation Company as demanded by the county boss.
Munga retired as chairman of Equity Group Holdings last year after 35 years.
Equity vice chairman David Ansell replaced him in changes that came in a period when the businessman had substantially cut his holding in the bank.
The tycoon is a founding partner of the bank that started as a building society in 1984 in Kangema, Murang’a.
In a letter, the county had instructed Equity Bank Murang’a branch to include two county officials as signatories of Muwasco account.
According to the letter signed by Finance CEC David Waweru, the decision was set to reflect the newly adopted Murang’a County Water and Sanitation Services Act 2019, which puts Muwaeco under control of the county.
“We hereby give instructions as follows: That effective immediately, the existing signing mandate of the accounts be and is hereby reviewed to include Edwin Kamuyu (chief officer revenue) and Peter G Kihora (chief officer finance and IT),” read part of the letter.
In a reply, the bank declined the request and termed it as unlawful insisting that Muwasco is an independent corporation.
It instructed county leadership to discuss the issue with board of directors at the firm.
“In light of the forgoing, kindly regularise the position by issuing the instruction for change and/or review of the signing mandate of the company accounts through the board of directors of the said company. Consequently, the
bank is unable to effect your request unless and/or until the same is sanctioned by the board of directors of the said company,” wrote the business growth and development manager Benson Kinuthia.
A similar letter was given by Water Services Regulatory Board which maintained that it had not received any compelling reason prompting the county to curtail autonomy of Muwasco.
“The instructions on change of mandate are derived from board of directors as per the constitution of the water service providers,” read a letter signed by CEO Robert Gakubia.
The developments show attempts Wa Iria is making to achieve control of the firm.
The seriousness of the water wars in the devolved unit came to the fore in August 2018 when Wa Iria marshaled an attack against Muwasco staff. According to the county chief, Muwasco should be under his control.
He also wants Munga to vacate office for what he terms as overstaying.
As a result of the wrangles, residents have been hit hard by water scarcity following several instances where people believed to be the governor’s allies destroyed water infrastructure.
In March 2019, Muwasco slapped a county official with a Sh500,000 fine for allegedly digging out water pipes using a tractor. The incident caused 10 days of water outage in Murang’a.
Among the governor’s grievances is that Murang’a’s Ndakaini Dam supplies water to Nairobi but proceeds from the water do not go back to Murang’a.
Wa Iria has been demanding that the government pays Murang’a Sh2 billion annually for the water