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Riddle of loan bigger than water firm income

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By WALTER MENYA
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How a water service provider that collects an average of Sh240 million a year entered into a deal with a consortium of foreign private investors worth billions of shillings, is now the subject of an investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

Tavevo Water Company of Taita Taveta County got into a deal with the consortium led by Miraadi Ltd for the Njoro Kubwa Bulk Water Project to supply water to Jipe Settlement Scheme in Taveta and several ranchers in the county, with 10 percent of the water meant for household use in other parts of the county.

The Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water (Kiffwa) was listed as a co-developer and financial adviser of the project.

The consortium was to contribute Sh6.2 billion, which was to be converted to a loan repayable by Tavevo in equal amounts for six years.

This translates to more than Sh1 billion a year, yet Tavevo’s annual revenue collection is way short of that, according to reports by the Auditor General.

The company has been receiving adverse opinions from the Auditor General due to various audit queries and liquidity issues.

The questionable deal was entered into by former Governor John Mruttu’s administration just months to the August 2017 General Election.

The EACC’s investigations follow a complaint by the current county administration. “We have formed a team to investigate the allegations. That is all we can say for now,” EACC’s communications officer Yassin Ayila said.

Of interest is that, except for a few correspondences and a memorandum of understanding, there are no documents to prove that procurement procedures were followed and the input of the County Assembly, National Treasury and the parent water ministry obtained.

Correspondences seen by Sunday Nation show that the county first wrote to EACC on February 21 and a follow-up letter on June 7 inviting the commission to initiate investigations into the matter.

“Your expedient action will be greatly appreciated, paving the way to prosecution of those culpable,” the county’s legal adviser Edwin Chahilu said in the letter of June 7.

The EACC acknowledged receipt of the complaint, including audit reports, on July 5.

“The commission will institute an investigation into Tavevo company to ascertain the veracity of the allegations,” EACC deputy director in charge of investigations, Mr Humphrey Mahiva, said in the letter.

Attempts to get the former governor to shed light on the matter did not bear fruit as Mr Mruttu declined to answer our questions. “This being a private investment, please talk to the investors,” he said.

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Tavevo managing director Habel Mwagha, now on suspension, did not respond to our messages for his side of the story.

Mr Tony Mwaruwa, managing director of Miraadi Ltd, which is the lead developer of the project, promised to give a response but had not done so by the time of going to press.

“We have a legal advisory on the project. We prefer to have a formal request to which we will respond in writing,” he said, and requested that we send him our specific queries through e-mail.

Later, he sent the reporter a threatening text message: “Your actions in the last 24 hours amount to harassment. It has been reported to Kilimani Police Station. Our lawyers will pick it up from here. Publish the unsubstantiated story at your own risk.”

Tavevo entered into the deal on January 30, 2017, just seven months to the elections and had the backing of Mr Mruttu, who in a letter dated June 28, 2017, said the county government “affirms our full support of the project”.

“The county executive has been actively involved with Miraadi since January 2015 vide a memorandum of understanding with them to develop the same project,” the governor noted in the letter.

Before the award was made, Tavevo is alleged to have spent Sh536,329 on project design by Amiantit Ltd, a company based in South Africa, and on benchmarking trips to different countries.

In the complaint to EACC, the current county administration claims that despite the huge amounts of money involved, “Tavevo does not have any records of transactions or documentation to qualify the journey towards this “flagship project’”.

Except for letters of award and acceptance and the memorandum of understanding, the complainants say they have found no minutes of public participation and of tender committee of county assembly approval, or input from the National Treasury and the Ministry of Water.

Moreover, there is no contract with the consortium on what the project entails and the obligations of the parties to the deal.

Mr Chahilu says the deal was never mentioned during the handover by the former governor to the current administration and no documents on it were given.

“The whole project was planned in an extremely casual way. All orderly, legal and regular ways of handling projects were avoided.

“The process of acquiring the loan is defective in that although the loan was sourced from outside the county, the governments both at national and county levels, were not appropriately done. This raises questions on guarantees of the loan. How was this aspect taken care of?” Mr Chahilu posed.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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