Ongwae tells of solid legacy, says he'll leave office with head held high - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 3 October 2020

Ongwae tells of solid legacy, says he'll leave office with head held high


Kisii Governor James Ongwae says he will leave office in 2022 with his head high.

He acknowledges some missteps in his first term, but he has secured his development legacy in the second term.

"Our people definitely have more to be happy for devolution," Ongwae said. 

The governor, who is said to be eyeing the Senate seat, admits it was not easy to develop the devolved unit from the scratch.

"There were no offices. We just began from the scratch and I am happy we are this far already," Ongwae told the Star exclusively.

He confidently said Kisii is far ahead of other counties in the region in terms development. But this would have been better were it not for the piecemeal funding by the national government.

There are still unfinished projects, Ongwae said. He cites health as one of the main developments he has built his legacy on.

"The health system was in a shambles. We inherited shells which initially appeared like hospitals.

"Over time, we injected more capital to improve them and expand the larger facilities. It hasn't been easy especially when working with the existing funding regimes," he said.

Ongwae said his administration has been spending more than 60 per cent of its share from the national government on health since devolution.

The most obvious evidence of this is the infrastructural improvement of Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital, the county's referral hospital.

The facility has more than 400 beds.

Sub-county health facilities like Nyamarambe, South Mugirango, Marani and Nyamache have also been improved remarkably.

According to the governor, his focus on the provision of health care was deliberate and purposeful from the word go.

"You can bank on a healthy population for development. It is by investing on health that we have seen improvement in maternal mortality," he said, adding that the construction of a 160-bed maternal and children hospital is 70 per cent complete.

Another focus of his development agenda was agriculture to ensure that the county was food secure.

"We have since subsidised artificial insemination for our dairy farmers to get better milk yields. With declining farmlands, we have encouraged our people to invest in farming that gives quick returns," the county chief said.

Kisii is densely populated and the farmlands are getting smaller. There are concerns that there will be no land to subdivide in the next few years.

"By United Nations standards, the entire Kisii can be considered peri-urban. It is actually a large informal settlement with no more land left, hence the need to encourage our people and help them think outside the box to ensure food security and create sources of income," Ongwae said.

The county has funded the construction of a tea factory at Sombogo to process the crop and create employment.

This has saved growers from travelling long distances to factories elsewhere. It will also reduce losses arising from delayed delivery.

Ongwae plans to set up a major sugar factory in South Mugirango are at advanced stages.

"There have been issues here and there but all that is water under the bridge. We are happy the Senate has given the project the go-ahead," he said.

Sugar farmers have been restive as they take the cane for crushing to far away factories in Migori and Transmara in Narok.

"We have had critics building the narrative that the project was never there. But soon the investor will be here to do ground breaking to prove them wrong," Ongwae said.

The Indian investor will pumb more than Sh4 billion into the factory.

The factory will transform lives in the larger South Mugirango area with as many as 10,000 youths and farmers depend on it for income, accordingto the governor.

Area MP Silvanus Osoro has on many occasions criticised Ongwae for the delay in starting the project.

"He comes, launches things with fanfare but years later there is nothing to show for it, "the legislator told the Star recently.

On Thursday, Ongwae seemed to exenorate himself from blame, saying there are timeframes and guidelines to follow in the establishment of mega projects.

"There are often various processes that have to be done to ensure the project meets the required legal and environmental assessments. And all these had to be met."

Politically, Ongwae's worst nightmare was in 2017 when he had to battle Chris Obure, a former Bobasi MP and now Transport and Infrastructure Chief Administrative Secretary, to retain his seat.

He said the challenge was formidable. "Looking back, it was not easy to ward off the challenge Obure put up during the polls."

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