Gravy train: How officials eat county funds with a big spoon

Governor Mutua’s mother-in-law (mother to First Lady Lillian Nganga) is said to have landed major contacts in the county, one of which is to plant flowers and ‘beautify’ the county

Nimrod Mbai, previously an Administration Police officer, was Dr Alfred Mutua’s bodyguard when he was the government spokesman.

After being elected governor, Mutua appointed his former bodyguard as chief officer, first in the department of agriculture before moving him to his office. Mbai’s wife followed and was employed by the county government in the procurement department where she also became a key pillar of Mutua’s government.

Within four years, the former humble cop has become an overnight millionaire and is said to own properties stretching from Machakos to Kitui. In his first 18 months in office, Mbai bought four houses in Kitengela, a 150-acre farm in Nzombe, Kitui County, where he comes from, and put up a big hotel in Kitui town.

And with enough cash to dispense, Mbai toyed with the idea of contesting for Kitui governor’s seat, telling his close confidants that he had enough to mount a formidable campaign both on land and in the air.

With time however, he shelved that ambition and retreated to his Kitui East Constituency home where he is contesting for a parliamentary seat on Maendeleo Chap Chap party.

Whenever he goes home, Mbai would either be seen at Zombe or Mutito markets where he advises other aspirants to stay away from the seat, saying he is the “perfect medicine” for incumbent MP Mutua Muluvi, a retired army major.

“Ekanai na ikovo ikomane na ikovo. Ethiwa ni mavuti twinamo na ethiwa ni mbesa twinasyo (let a cop handle a cop. If it is guns we have them, if it is money we have it in plenty) a villager quotes Mbai occasionally saying while on the campaign trail.

Mbai is however not the only Machakos County official who has amassed immense wealth in one term in office.

As county chief of staff, the flamboyant Mwengi Mutuse is said to be a trusted lieutenant and the force behind Mutua.

Mutuse hails from Makueni County where he is currently putting up a fine establishment called Savannah Paradise Hotel. It has 200 rooms with a presidential suite. He is also said to be among the few county government officers who have purchased homes at the prestigious Green Park estate in the outskirts of Machakos town.

But because charity begins at home, Governor Mutua’s mother-in-law (mother to First Lady Lillian Nganga) has not been left behind.

She is said to have landed major contacts in the county, one of which is to plant flowers and ‘beautify’ the county. And given the planted and replanting going on (Dr Mutua loves flowers), mother-in-law could be taking home a tidy sum monthly.

“Mutua could have planted bananas or pawpaws for us, and we could be now selling them in major towns. What are flowers for?” wondered an aged woman from Kinanie village in Athi River.

But it is Dr Mutua, who must thank the heavens for having the foresight to run for governor.

According to a schedule released by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the proposed salary for a county governor is Sh13.3 million per year, making Mutua one of the most successful and shrewdest investors around, if his property portfolio, alleged to be held in proxy, is anything to go by.