Taita-Taveta governor Granton Samboja is accusing former county governor John Mruttu of saddling the county with staggering pending bills that he said have stalled development in the region. Samboja said Mruttu left the county with bills totaling Sh1.2 billion, a financial burden that has turned into a millstone around the county’s neck strangling any measures aimed at the rapid transformation of the county. Speaking at Vighombonyi in Wundanyi opening a fully-equipped dispensary in the area, Samboja did not mince words as he tore into the former governor and blamed him for evading his obligations to pay the pending bills which had accumulated from 2013 to 2017. Samboja admitted that it has been difficult navigating the challenge of paying county debts and initiating development at the same time. “I did not know what awaited me once I assumed this office. I discovered Mruttu had left behind debts totaling Sh1.2 billion which I have been paying since then,” he charged. Samboja said that were it not for the bills, development in the county would be rapid.
He however pledged to utilize the available funds to fulfill his development pledges though at a slower rate. He said that out of the total allocation of Sh4b billion the county receives annually as an equitable share, over a half went to pay salaries for county workers while the rest went to the county assembly, clearing of debts and funding development projects in the county. “Out of the Sh4 billion we receive, over Sh2.6 billion is set aside for salaries while the county assembly takes Sh652 million. I am only left with Sh800 million to pay the pending bills and do development,” he said. His administration had to date cleared bills totaling Sh650 million. Though the two leaders have occasionally met during some public functions, there is still no love lost between them following their bitter rivalry from the 2017 general election.
After he defeated Mruttu, Samboja formed two task forces to probe development projects done by his predecessor and to probe the issue of pending bills. There were claims that some of the pending bills were fictitious and needed verification. Since then Samboja has viewed the pending bills as an economic burden with the potential to wreck his election pledges and development record. Since 2017, a number of capital-intensive projects have been launched with the most visible being the upgrading of Dawson Mwanyumba Stadium in Wundanyi and the ongoing construction of a banana processing plant in Taveta sub-county. The governor recently opened an upgraded outpatient wing at Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi and a footbridge in Kaloleni. A fortnight ago, he also launched George Faraji Dispensary in Werugha. His supporters say he has done relatively well in terms of connecting rural villages with piped water, construction of rural access roads and upgrading a number of health facilities.