In a recent interview with Saturday Nation’s Conversations With Book Lovers, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua said he was extremely uncomfortable with the rate of sluggish development in the country and the lack of fire in the belly of leaders to improve the lives of Kenyans. “We Kenyans have also resigned to fate. We need to change our attitude,” he said.
According to Dr Mutua, debate on social media on various issues, particularly on personalities is ugly, which shows that Kenya has degenerated into a country of haters, who “derive pleasure from other’s downfall.” Dr Mutua says haters do not make him lose even an iota of sleep as he struggles to transform the fortunes of Machakos County.
“My focus in life is success. If you move ahead in life, people want to pull you down. My focus is my job. I want to deliver what I promised to my people,” he says.
Q: What is your understanding of transformational leadership?
A: The time has come for leadership to reflect the desires and wishes of the people of Kenya. Leadership that transforms dreams into reality in a speedy manner. Kenyans are tired of waiting for the dreams of independence to be realised. The high rates of poverty and unemployment need a new paradigm in the way things are done.
Q: Do you consider yourself a transformative leader?
A: I consider myself to be innovative and focused in transforming the lives of the people of Machakos through leadership that brings about development and not the normal political rhetoric. The focus of leaders should not be about themselves or acquisition of power but efficient service to the poor, hungry children of this country.
Q: Talking of priorities, the Auditor General’s report showed that you spend over Sh1 million providing a microphone at a funeral? You don’t regret such spending?
A: No regrets because no microphone was paid for. What was provided was a full public address system that included huge field TV screens, speakers for 10,000 mourners and communication system. In reality, we paid less than what is paid every day by private companies and other government departments.
In Machakos and the entire Ukambani region, we do not take it kindly that we are criticised for giving our hero the late Senator Mutula Kilonzo a proper send-off whereas no one has questioned the colossal amount of money spent by the national government to bury heroes from other regions.
We are very careful how public money is used. People have been asking whether we are getting more money than other counties.
We are not. What we are doing is squeezing every shilling by eliminating waste, corruption and disorganisation so that we can get double what others are getting for the same amount of money. We do this by announcing our budgets, setting reserve prices and paying our suppliers on time.
Q: What is your dream for Machakos?
To make the county the place to be by making it the centre of economic excitement and growth.
We plan to make Machakos the ideal home for its residents where things work as they are supposed to. A home where the security of families is assured, health centres function at international levels, roads are free of potholes, quality education thrives and opportunities are given to all to excel.
Q: It takes concrete action to turn dreams into realities. How do you plan to do this?
A: By first tackling the basics of life that are still a bother hundreds of years after the Industrial Age in Europe. My plan is to get rid of problems of water and food shortage, access to health care, poor infrastructure, insecurity, proper education levels and unemployment.
Q: How do you plan to decrease the high poverty levels amongst your people?
A: As I take care of the basics, I am also launching initiatives to empower wananchi. We have a social welfare programme which is giving Sh20 million to women, Sh15 million to the youth, Sh10 million to the elderly and another Sh10 million to the disabled to set up businesses. In the next financial year, we are tripling this amount and creating a revolving fund.
Q: Many families in this county cannot afford food. How does you government intends to ensure sufficient food for everybody?
A: Agriculture is key to food security and fighting poverty. We have bought and are giving for free two million chicks so that all our youth can keep chicken, which my government will purchase from them and sell them new chicks.
The use of tractors to expand our land under cultivation and giving free seed and subsidised fertiliser is meant to provide long-term food security and money to Machakos residents.
We realise that counties will need to generate more income to provide better services to our people. This is why we are providing incentives to investors so that we can open new manufacturing plants, hotels, homes and many other initiatives that will create jobs and wealth.
Q. You held probably the first county investment conference. There is talk that all the investment pledges remain just that. Which investors have moved to the ground?
A: The investment programme is right on schedule, and we will soon be unveiling all the investors who have committed physically and financially to Machakos County.
Q: Do you think setting up a new Machakos City just adjacent to the proposed Konza Techno City and barely 40km from Nairobi city is economical?
A: Actually it is an advantage to both cities. If you want trees to grow faster, you plant them close to each other. Growth attracts growth and the new Machakos City and Konza City will support each other and speed up their takeoff and expansion because they are very close to each other. We are effectively creating a new metropolis in Kenya. The new Machakos City will be the centre of economic growth. We are already using Sh250 million to lay structures for main roads, sewer systems and water sources for the new city in the next three months. By mid this year, new buildings will come up providing a new impetus and hope to the people of Machakos and Kenya
Q: The Machakos county assembly last week approved Sh1.2 billion supplementary budget. What is the money for?
A: We have reduced our recurrent expenditure and allocated more money on development. The money is going to be used for the construction of new community hospitals for each of the 40 wards in the county, water harvesting and road construction.
Q:You have been in office for a year. What ground have you covered on health and roads?
We have a comprehensive health programme that ensures every hospital has medicine and equipment and no one ever shares a hospital bed. We are also expanding services so that treatment is conducted efficiently. We have purchased 80 ambulances so that every citizen or visitor in any corner of Machakos can receive medical emergency attention within 10 to 15 minutes of seeking help. We expect to reduce this time to the international standards of four to eight minutes.
Q: You have bought ambulances yet hospitals such as Machakos Level Five are overstretched and have no drugs. Where are the ambulances supposed to take patients?
A: You need to move around and visit hospitals in Machakos. We have been hailed as one of the counties where the health sector is working. Machakos Level 5 hospital’s supplies and service is such that it is becoming the most-efficient public hospital in Kenya. We are about to open an Intensive Care Unit, dialysis unit and state-of-the-art diagnostic centre in the hospital; all our Machakos Level 4 and new community hospitals will have the same facilities soon.
We have functioning health centres, and soon we will have community hospitals in every ward with mini-theatres, laboratories, X-ray facilities, wards and maternity wings. Machakos residents will not have to walk or travel long distances for treatment.
Q: Walk or travel on which roads,? The counties roads are in a sorry state.
A: No. We have graded and are grading major roads in every ward. We are also putting tarmac on major roads in the county (Makutano-Mwala-Kithimani Road) that opens up the region to economic growth. We have also awarded tenders for construction of roads in Athi River that have been in despicable state for years. We have just advertised for construction of all roads in Syokimau.
We have a plan to tarmac all major roads in Machakos County by 2017 and to come up with a system of making all roads free from dust and mud.
Q: There is a close relationship between investment and security. How secure is Machakos?
A: To create an enabling environment for business, we have invested heavily in security. We have new 120 security cars that are fuelled and serviced, over 500 CCTV cameras and five, 24-hour dispatch call centres. We have also opened the first forensics centre in Kenya – the Machakos Forensics Centre – to aid in criminal investigation.
Q. The national government is crying about the huge wage bill and waste. There is concern that the same is reflected in counties?
A: I totally believe that if we exercise austerity measures and clean up our procurement system and fight corruption, Kenya can build double the roads it builds every year, double the schools, hospitals and double employment opportunities. Our biggest problem is that everything bought by government is usually overpriced because officials have to get a cut.
In Machakos, we buy goods and get services at or below market prices, ensuring there is value for money and no shilling goes to anyone’s pockets.
Q:If Sunday Nation visits Machakos county four years from now. What kind of county should we expect to find?
A: You will find a clean, organised and dynamic county with services that are second to none and a safe and beautiful place to call home. Our mantra is: If something is supposed to work, it should. We have no room for lethargy or waste. Finally, I want to say that Kenyans are very smart.
We have many good ideas and plans for development. Our weakness is implementation and greed. In Machakos, we do not waste time on talking; we get down to action. We welcome you all to come and share in our dream as we make Machakos the place to be.