Bribery, nepotism claims stalk Kazi Mtaani project

Friday, July 17th, 2020 00:00 | By
Youths engaging in Kazi Mtaani initiative. PHOTO/COURTSY

Politicians and national officers have been put on the spot over accusations of nepotism and bribery in the hiring of youth for the Sh10 billion Kazi Mtaani project.

A section of youths from Nairobi, Kiambu, Mombasa, Kisumu and Trans-Nzoia counties have accused MPs,  county administration officials, ward representatives and Nyumba Kumi heads of colluding to employ their relatives and supporters.

Multiple sources who spoke to People Daily, said  many youths were being hired after committing to share half their daily wages ranging from Sh450 to Sh600 with chiefs.   

Youths also complained that politicians and chiefs had “imported strangers” from other regions to benefit from the projects whose second phase started on Monday this week.

The recruitment involves a team comprising local MP, chiefs, Members of County Assembly and Woman Representatives.

Complaints about massive bribery and nepotism emerged despite a stern warning by President Uhuru Kenyatta that members of the provincial administration will be held accountable if the programme is abused.   

 “Many of you will recall that a similar programme was unfortunately abused.

I have to be very clear with you, we will not entertain abuse this time round,” Uhuru said in his address to county commissioners who gathered in Nairobi for training on the project.

Successful applicants

“It will be your direct responsibility to ensure that there is no abuse. It is for you to ensure that the money that comes to your regions is used properly and used for the intended purpose,” Uhuru said.

But youths in various parts of the country yesterday described the recruitment process as “opaque”.

“The recruitment process is not free and fair at all. People are being picked based on who they know and what they can give in return,” said Erick Awuor, who applied to be recruited for the menial jobs in Kisumu but was unsuccessful.

Another youth, Fagyl Ocholla, claimed he was short-changed at the last minute after initially being selected to take part in the programme.

“I was left wondering why my name was removed from the list of successful applicants at the last minute.

We suspect there is an element of bribery going on in the whole exercise,” said Ocholla.

A total of 2,300 youths were employed in the first phase of the programme. Another cohort was set to begin work in the second phase this week.

Over 500 youths from Makongeni village in Thika, Kiambu County, accused members of the local provincial administration of biased recruitment of Kazi Mtaani cohorts.

The jobless youth claim government officers from the area had enlisted their friends from other regions in the programme, locking out targeted beneficiaries.

“We have tried to talk to the administrators without success. They have employed persons from other areas yet we have met all the qualifications to participate in the programme,” said one of the youths.

But dismissing the claims, Lazarus Obuar, an assistant county commissioner in the area, said they could not employ every youth from the locality.

He said that while many youths were jobless especially during the Covid-19 period, there were limited slots in the programme.

“We have not employed any ghost workers and if they have evidence then let them expose us.

We understand that most youths are jobless but we hope the programme will be expanded in the future to bring more of them on board.”

The first phase of the programme focused on informal settlements in counties such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu, Nakuru, Kisumu, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera, before it was rolled out to other regions this week.

Contacted for comment, Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga allayed fears of corruption in the programme, noting that a multi-agency team steering the project had come up with  mechanisms to ensure recruitment was above board.

Hinga chairs the team that brings together officials from the Interior, State Department for Youth and the Council of Governors.

“We have a watertight selection criteria that involves grassroots leaders. For instance, you cannot employ more than one member from the same family.

Members of Nyumba Kumi are involved in identifying beneficiaries to ensure there is no abuse,” said Hinga.

“We are also using a special application criteria to ensure nobody benefits twice. And the cash is sent to the contracted workers’ phones.”

According to the President, the scheme is meant cushion youth whose prospects for daily or casual work has been disrupted by containment measures put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

He said National Hygiene Programme aims to benefit more than  270,000 Kenyans.

In Nakuru, Regional Co-ordinator George Natembeya  defended the exercise as fair,  transparent and accountable.

He said the list of successful applicants will be posted at the chiefs’ notice boards.

“We don’t want to hear stories of ‘you must know somebody’ to get it because the criterion of picking them is known and it is clear,” said Natembeya.

Working hours reviewed 

He, however, said they were overwhelmed by the large number of applicants.

“For instance, in the second phase we had 13,000 people who applied but only 3, 000 were taken,” he said, adding: “It is a challenge because it means about 10, 000 were left out.”

The tough-talking administrator warned that chiefs and Nyumba Kumi officials will be held accountable if underserving cases benefitted in their areas.

“They will be answerable because they are the ones in charge of the process,” he said, adding that those picked will work in two-week shifts in the programme which will run for six months.

The youth are mainly involved in cleaning of public spaces, clearing drainages and general cleaning of the environment.

“It is basically socio-economic support for the youth because this coronavirus has caused a lot of problems for a majority of them,” said Natembeya.

His Nairobi counterpart Wilson Njega also denied claims from youths in Ruaraka that they had been excluded from the exercise.

“A total of 2,930 were recruited from there and their details are with the local administration.

The list is available for scrutiny and we need concrete information and not claims,” he told People Daily.

In Mombasa, a group of youths from Bangladesh slums appealed to the government to review daily allowances which have been reduced from Sh650 to Sh450.

The youth have also protested a review of working hours from six to eight hours a day, saying the pay is not commensurate with the long day working hours. They also want the government to review the mode of payments to sustain their livelihoods.

“We are concerned why working hours were increased from six hours to eight hours while the daily allowances have been reduced. This is a discouragement 

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