It is my pleasure to present to this Honorable Assembly the state of affairs for our beloved County. As I stand here today, I am humbled by the task ahead of all of us, grateful for the trust this Assembly has continued to bestow on us and mindful of the daily sacrifices borne by our hardworking people in their daily toils to build Meru.
I feel greatly elated today at the many things we planned as government over the last two and half years and accomplished with satisfaction; I am conscious of those things we could have done better; but greatly motivated at the immense opportunities I see at the horizon as we truly transform Meru into a united, prosperous, green model county.
I know the challenges we have faced on over the last months are real, they are serious and they are many. They may not be met easily or in a short span of time. But I know this for sure - they will be met because of our ability to surmount tough odds. This is our collective genius as a County.
One such challenge has been the escalation of insecurity associated with banditry and cattle rustling in Meru North that has led to senseless killing of people and wanton destruction of property. I find it befitting at this moment Honorable Members that, we observe a one-minute silence in honor of those who have fallen victim to these unfortunate attacks (SILENCE)…….Thank You Members
We urge the National Government to do its most important constitutional duty of protecting lives and property in this County so that we do have to keep losing people to these attacks. On our part as a Government, we have provided compassionate support to the affected families; and we are working with the National Government to ensure that the administrative boundary between Meru and Isiolo counties is respected. Border demarcation has now been completed and we request our neighbor to respect this official boundary - our boundary with Isiolo is known and it is not in contention. I too ask the national Government to deal sternly with those bent on killing people and stealing their livestock in this area on the pretext of some none existent boundary dispute.
We have made tremendous progress over the review period in the important job of fortifying our political, economic and social pillars as a County. We have made many targeted interventions in various sectors of our economy; and we are extremely bullish about our outlook.
The Public Service and Administration department is the nerve centre of the County Government with a mandate to design and execute innovative programmes for effective and efficient service delivery to our citizens. Our aspiration is to create a county public service and administration system that is extremely efficient, accessible and responsive to the needs of our citizens.
In order to deepen the reach of Government services in the County, and ensure that our services are accessed easily and within reach by our people, we have advertised positions for 392 village administrators. This will reduce the cost of access to public services by the public especially the poor, the old and the disabled; and also improve the dissemination mechanism for public services to the grassroots.
Moreover, we have fully cleaned the payroll to account for all our members of staff; separated the County Assembly Payroll from that of the Executive; and promoted 112 officers mainly from the Health Department. An addition 120 officers are being considered for promotion.
During the period under review, the Government undertook an audit on all contract and casual employees and discovered that 976 employees were under these categories. We also discovered that the distribution of casual workers in the sub-counties was skewed. In order to redress this matter and streamline the engagement and distribution framework for these employees, the Government has already developed a policy for contract and casual employees to guide on the terms of engagement for these cadres moving forward.
In order to continually improve public service delivery and motivate employees, my Government has continued to invest significant resources in capacity building and training for employees. In this regard, various Government officers were trained in various fields that include Integrated Financial Management (IFMIS), e-procurement, public financial management; and procurement laws and regulations during the period under review. We have put in place systems, including a performance review framework to ensure that these efforts lead to better and efficient service provisioning by all employees.
The twin mandates of the county treasury are to ensure efficiency and timely collection of County revenues; and guarantee a prudential application and use of these resources to deliver public services. To address the challenges associated with poor fiscal performance and aggregate budget deficits, the Government has automated revenue collection to seal leakages, improve efficiency as well as monitoring performance. We believe this intervention will greatly improve revenue collections by the county moving forward.
In line with the second schedule of public finance management Act, we have moved away from line item budgeting system to programme based budgeting model that links funding of departments to the results they deliver. This is meant to instill fiscal discipline and create value for money for our resources.
We believe that public participation in the budget cycle is an important approach for democratizing the public financial management. In this connection, and in order to enhance openness and transparency in the budgeting process, the Government has put in place the Meru County Budget and Economic Forum to provide an avenue for public participation in planning and budget making.
In order to tighten controls in our financial management system, we engaged a firm of credible external consultants to undertake a thorough audit of our financial systems with a view to identifying areas of weak financial controls and recommending measures for improvement. I am happy to announce to this august house that the audit exercise will be completed in the next one week and I will be sharing the findings of this exercise with this Assembly.
The Honorable Members will recall that when we were elected to lead this great county, we committed to profile Meru County as the most preferred and attractive destination for investments, business and leisure. This vision was well articulated in our inaugural Meru Rising Conference. I am happy to report to you Honorable Members that this Vision is still alive and getting stronger by the day and my Government has held many events, both in Meru and Nairobi, to keep this aspiration going.
We held an extremely successful Meru International Investment Conference in June this year that attracted many local and international investors. We also hosted the Kenya Tourism Week one month ago that attracted many delegates from within and outside our Country. On 19th December 2015 Honorable Members, Meru County will be hosting over 5000 women to dialogue on matters of gender mainstreaming. In February next year, the Communications Authority of Kenya will host an ICT Consumer Forum in Meru to engage the public on regulatory matters in the ICT sector. Many other public and private sector meetings and conferencing events are coming to Meru as can be witnessed by the traffic in our hotels.
Honorable Members, Meru County will be hosting the third Devolution Conference in April next year bringing over 6,000-delegates in this beautiful county. This singular event will have profound commercial benefits in this County and I want to request the business community particularly those in hospitality, transport and logistics to start preparing for this event.
The County has over the recent past attracted a lot of interests from investors seeking to establish businesses in various economic sectors of our economy such as energy, agriculture and real estate. The Meru County Investment and Development Corporation is now fully operation and has become the face of the County in selling Meru as an attractive investment destination.
The Kenya Electricity Generation Company (KenGen), Wind Lab of Australia and Gulf Energy are already undertaking studies with a view to investing in our rich wind energy potential. Naanovo Kenya Limited and Africa Green Energy Solutions Limited are seeking to establish solar parks in Meru County.
A macadamia processing and packaging factory is being developed in this county and will be up and running during the first quarter of 2016. Pagomo Foods, an international potatoe processing Company with a factory in Zambabwe has set eyes on establishing a potatoe cold storage and processing factory in Timau.
Discussions are on with other investors interested in establishing banana, avocado, leather and maize milling plants in Meru County and we have engaged the Kenya Industrial Research and Development (KIRDI) to partner with us on this journey. The factory model is the economic renaissance path we have chosen for our county and we intend to strictly stick to it.
We also developed a Renewable Energy Asset Map with technical support from USAID/FIRM to profile investment opportunity in small hydropower, wind and solar energy technologies. This report was launched to investors in Nairobi yesterday and the interest was overwhelming. We are certain that shortly we will be having more investors in these areas.
Agriculture and livestock development are at the centre of our economic transformation agenda for this county because most of our citizens are engaged in these sectors. We consider agriculture and livestock the easiest and most practical entry points to quickly transform the economic fortunes of our county. The Government is therefore committing a lot of resources to modernization of these sectors by addressing constraints associated with costly inputs, quality seeds, extension services, post harvest losses, poor prices and value addition.
Specifically on modernization of Agriculture, the Government has procured 68 greenhouses and established 18 drip irrigation kits for our farmers; and we will shortly be constructing 25 water tanks in various parts of the County. In addition, we have constructed potato seed stores for our farmers in Meru Central Sub County and I encourage our farmers to take advantage of these initiatives to improve agricultural production.
In the field of livestock development, we aspire to make Meru County the number one dairy producer in the Country by improving the quality of animals, supporting dairy farmers with quality extension services and providing basic infrastructures such as coolers. Honorable Members will recall that the Government recently launched an elaborate Artificial Insemination Programme that included employment of 18 field officers; a fully equipped artificial breed van; 12,500 doses of high quality semen bought from brazil that are affordable; and 25 motorcycles for the field offices. We believe the milk yield per cow will greatly improve with these interventions and I urge all farmers to make use of these services.
My government has also been offering free bird vaccination services and so far we have vaccinated more than 10,000 birds. We have also constructed 2 big trout farms to promote fish farming in the County.
The County Government has made significant interventions aimed at improving retention of children, especially those from disadvantaged families in schools through provision of basic infrastructures and bursaries. We consider the Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) as the foundation for molding the child through education; and the Government has been investing heavily in improving the learner-experience at this level in order to keep the children in school. We have constructed 135 learner-friendly ECDE classrooms - 3 in each ward; and employed 1,226 ECDE teachers. We intend to recruit an addition 300 ECDE teachers by end of June 2016.
Honorable Members, ECDE is a devolved function, and we consider the bill before the National Assembly that seeks to return the recruitment of ECDE teachers to the National Government as another attempt to crawl back the gains of devolution. The bill is unconstitutional Hon Members and I urge the National Assembly to reject it. I also want to make it clear as the Chairman of the Council of Governors that the Council will go to court to challenge the constitutionality of that law if it is passed.
My Government considers quality technical education as an important tool to empower our youth for productive engagement. There is a big shortage of qualified artisans in this Country to support the many on-going and upcoming infrastructure projects; and I urge our youth to join the polytechnics and get these skills. As a Government, we are investing resources in these facilities and so far the Government has absorbed all the youth polytechnic instructors under ESP contract into the County payroll and factored resources to recruit more instructors this financial year. In addition, we have constructed 22 workshops and 3 hostels; and provided instructional tools to all polytechnics. I also wish to request Honorable Members to encourage the young men and women in your wards to join these institutions.
Provision of quality, affordable and accessible health service is a key pillar our Government’s health transformation agenda. I believe a healthy county is a productive county and, courtesy of the support from this Assembly, we have continued to channel large amounts of fiscal resources to this sector over the previous years for improvement of the health care delivery system.
During the year under review, we opened 22 new dispensaries and 5 new maternity units across the county. An additional 14 dispensaries and 3 maternity units are nearing completion and will be opened this financial year. To further improve service deliver, the Government has absorbed all the 230 health care workers who were on contract under ESP and employed 248 new health workers in various cadres. With these interventions, distances to health care facilities by those who need them and the cost of accessing these services have greatly reduced. Honorable Members, I ask of your continued support for this important sector.
We consider land a critical factor of production and therefore an important economic resource for economic empowerment if properly managed. One of the prominent problems revolving around land in Meru County is the land tenure challenge that has led to many land ownership disputes, which adversely effects land productivity potential of this county. As you are aware Honorable Members, Management of Land is partly a devolved function and partly a National Government function; and we are working with the National Lands Commission to fast-track resolution of land ownership issues in this County so that we can unlock the true economic potential of this resource.
We are however extremely concerned that the never ending controversies between the National Lands Commission and Ministry of Lands could be stifling urgent reforms needed in this sector. I urge the authorities concerned to provide leadership and address this matter urgently. Land is an emotive political, social and economic resource in this country and issues concerning land require to be handles in a dispassionate and non-controversial manner.
On our part, we have facilitated land adjudication in most parts of the county including Upper Athiru Gaiti A, Akithi III, Kangeta, Nathuu where certificates of land ownership have been issued. We have also completed land adjudication process in Akirang’ondu B, Kiengu, Kanjoo, Kianjai, Buuri, Kitharene, Uringu I & II, Mbeu I, Kiguchwa, Athanja, Antuamburi.
In addition, my government has completed Sub-county and Ward integrated strategic spatial plans in Ntima West-Gikumene, Ntima East-Thimangiri, Municipality-entire ward, Nyaki West-kithoka and Kaaga areas; while spatial plans for Muthara, Muriri, Nchiru, Maua, Laare, Timau and Nkubu urban area are nearing completion.
Further, in our commitment to providing an enabling environment for development, we have made significant strides in the processing of development applications while collaborating with the County Land Management Board to process transfer of leases.
Economic planning is a key pillar in government operations. My government’s operations have been informed and remain guided by the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP). We are currently undertaking a Mid-term review of the CIDP to take stock of the implementation progress to-date, identify challenges and define measures to address them as we move to the next phase. We have formulated the County development coordination policy which will enhance coordination of the multiplicity of development players from the village level to the county headquarters.
ICT integration in Government operations and services remains a main focus of my Government. During the year under review; and with the support of World Bank and ICT Authority (ICTA), we developed an ICT roadmap for the County and commenced laying of ICT backbone infrastructure from the Headquarter to all Sub-Counties. Once complete, this backbone shall provide a platform for automation of critical services offered by the County Government. We envision decentralization of services and increased self-service taking advantage of our high mobile penetration.
We are also in the process of installing an integrated communication service system to enhance public engagement and feedback. Along this line, we have commenced setting up a contact centre to improve communication services and in turn enhance public participation.
My Government considers the Transport and Infrastructure service a key enabler to our macro-economic development agenda. That is why we have gone out of our way to commit significant development resources to this sector over the past years despite glaring financial constraints. This also informs why we have gone even out of the country to look for quick but technically sound and cost effective solutions to help deliver our mandate in this sector. A major drawback for all counties in this sector is that financial resources are still held up by National Government institutions for roads that have already been devolved.
My Government still made impressive strides in this sector within the resources available to us. During the review period, we undertook light and heavy grading for approximately 1000km of road network and graveled approximately 100km of roads. We also completed the D484 Kianjai-Miathene-Mikinduri pilot road using probase technology and our target is to develop another 300KM of roads using this technology in phases. A proposal for the first tranche of the 150KM of roads is before this House and I believe this Assembly will support this project.
We are aware that the National Government is also considering this technology while Counties such as Samburu and Embu have made significant strides in this regard. Meru County pioneered this technology on pilot basis for Kenya and we are preparing for the post pilot stage. I count on the support of this Assembly as always in delivering the promise of good roads to Meru County residents.
We are also aware of the destructive effects of the on-going el-Nino rains on our infrastructure assets and wish to take this opportunity to alert all our people about the dangers posed by the heavy rains. Those living in areas prone to landslide or near river banks must be careful and move to safer grounds. We as a Government are on the alert on 24hours basis to deal with any emergencies that may arise. I also want to call upon the National Government to release part of the Ksh.4billion el-Nino emergency fund to Counties to support interventions at the local level.
Meru County is considered the home of cooperatives and the vision of my Government is to revive the cooperative movement as a tool for our economic empowerment. The Meru Community developed and/or bought major infrastructure assets in the early days such as Nyambene and Imenti Houses in Nairobi courtesy of the vibrant cooperative movement. In this connection, we established a task force to provide the Government with a policy roadmap for reviving the cooperative sector. We have since supported and capitalized the rejuvenation of Meru Coffee Mill which acquired a Commercial Coffee Marketing License in August 2015 - becoming the first and only cooperative in the country so far to acquire this license.
During the March to September, 2015 coffee crop the mill received 16,500 bags of coffee which generated 7,500 bags of clean coffee after milling. This coffee was sold through the direct sale and auction generating Kshs. 132 million which has already been disbursed to the coffee societies.
The coffee prices paid to farmers have increased significantly and I call upon the remaining societies to join the Meru Coffee Mill to protect farmers from exploitation. Farmers must also be on the guard against those working with cartels that brought the coffee sector in Meru on its death-bed not too long ago.
In addition, my Government has now operationalized the Micro-finance bank that will offer cheap credit to individuals and enterprises in this county for wealth and employment creation. The Corporation will be launched on 18th December 2015 initially with two branches - one in Maua and another in Meru; and progressively build a branch network in all parts of the County.
The Government has also formed Women, Youth and General Traders SACCOs in all sub-counties; and capitalized these SACCOs with Kshs. 67.5 million seed capital. The SACCOs have so far mobilized own savings of Kshs. 23 million and disbursed loans worth Kshs. 32 million. We are now providing capacity building for the leaders of the SACCOs and the members to ensure that the funds are well utilized. I urge all the women, youth and men to join the SACCOs in order to be able to access affordable credit for personal growth.
The promotion of micro and small enterprises is key to providing employment in the informal sector. We are supporting the artisans through capacity building and operationalization of artisan sheds constructed under the Economic stimulus programme (ESP). We have concluded financial literacy trainings in all the 9 sub counties with over 900 artisans being trained. We have also disbursed loans of between Ksh. 50,000 to Ksh. 150,000 to 69 small traders under the joint loans programme.
In tourism development and marketing, we have mapped and profiled all tourism attractions in the County and developed the County tourism guide which was launched during the UN world Tourism day/Kenya Tourism week hosted here in Meru.
Meru has a very youthful population and my Government is putting every effort to protect our youth from the hazards of unhealthy commercial enterprises. I am aware of the risks the sale of illicit brews poses to our youth, with the prospect of exterminating a whole generation before our eyes. In order to deal with this serious problem, I inaugurated the Meru County alcoholic board on 6th January, 2015 to regulate and license alcoholic drinks business in the county. This was in full realization of the negative effects of illicit liquor commonly referred to as ‘Kabondi’ has on our youth population. In the period under review, we have trained 2,250 Trainer of Trainers across the whole county to help train the communities on healthy, socially accepted and economically viable habits of trading in and consumption of alcohol.
Key achievements under this Board include establishment of a desk at the Huduma Centre to fast-track process of alcoholic licenses; establishment of rehabilitation and training grounds at Kinoru; and enforcement of alcoholic drinks regulations.
I call upon the youth to shun these unhealthy drinks and engage in useful productive engagements such as agriculture and dairy farming. I also wish to encourage our youth to join the youth polytechnics for skills training and the youth SACCOs to access affordable credit facilities for small scale enterprises.
In keeping with our vision of being a green model county, we have undertaken 10km river bank protection by planting of 4000 giant bamboo seedlings in collaboration with Upper Tana Natural Resource Management initiative. We have also re-afforested 200 hectares of degraded forests which saw the dilapidated Ruthumbi, Mucheene, Ngaya, Mweru and Biankure forest ecosystems given a new lease of life.
Following the inception of school greening programmes by the president in 2013, the County has continued to implement the initiative which has seen 40,500 seedlings planted in 81 schools with a survival rate of 75%. To combat climate change the Government with support from development partners has woodlots in 200 households. To enhance solid waste management the department purchased four additional waste trucks and we are striving to ensure each sub county has at least a lorry.
I want to call upon the youth in this great County to remember our good conservation culture as a community when boys planted trees that they used to build their houses when they became young men. Having planted a tree as a boy was the pride of every young man; and I want to invite all the youth of Meru back to this great history of Ameru.
My Government has submitted an environment and climate change policy to this County Assembly for approval. This will see the formation of county and sub-county environmental committees and drafting of county environmental regulations.
Further, to provide the right environment for business investments in Meru Town the Government is constructing a sewerage system for Makutano; while a proposal for a larger sewerage system for the entire Meru Town financed by JICA is awaiting approval by the National Treasury. In addition, the Government is also expanding infrastructure to augment the current water supply to Meru town and its environs through MEWASS.
To monitor the quality of water consumed by residents of this county the Government is equipping a water quality analysis laboratory in order to reduce disease burdens resulting from water borne diseases in Meru County. To promote rain water harvesting to supplement the existing water sources, the Government is constructing 27 rainwater harvesting units in the dry parts of this county.
Within the Nyambene ecosystem we have carried out hydrogeological survey with an intention of providing a clean and reliable water source for the livestock keepers and other residents. Soon we will have several boreholes sunk within this area.
I was shocked to read from the press that a report was done that portrayed that miraa has negative health effects to the human body. The report portrayed that the crop affects the reproductive system of the human body, I wish to urge this honorable house to join me in defending the crop that has supported our community for many years because the findings are untrue and published in bad faith.
Based on statistics and facts the northern part of our County where miraa is grown has the highest birth rate and the sane scenario is seen with the Somali community who are the greatest consumers of the crop. I fail to understand whether all these children are delivered through artificial insemination. Other respectable studies done including a committee that was appointed by Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom have given miraa a clean bill of health.
In conclusion, may I note that my government has made tremendous progress towards realizing our promises to the people of this great County amid numerous challenges. We shall remain focused on this course to deliver all our promises as envisioned in our CIDP. I appeal to you Honorable Members to continue supporting our initiatives by ensuring that we get adequate funds, policies and laws.
Lastly, l take the earliest opportunity to wish this honorable assembly and indeed the residents of Meru County a happy Christmas and a happy new year ahead.
Thank you and May God bless Meru County