Makueni County Assembly Speaker Douglas Mbilu (left) with Governor Kivutha Kibwana at a past event
Makueni County Assembly Speaker Douglas Mbilu (left) with Governor Kivutha Kibwana at a past event

Makueni has the happiest, most optimistic residents out of Kenya’s 47 counties, according to a new survey by Infotrak. The CountyTrak Index explores aspects of devolution and governance, seeking to understand Kenyans’ perceptions towards their leaders.

Other than ranking counties based on happiness and optimism, it also ranked Senators, Governors and Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) based on approval ratings. Tellingly, Makueni county emerged top in several categories.

The Speaker Douglas Mbilu-led Makueni County Assembly was rated as the best performing assembly in the country.

Makueni County Assembly Speaker Douglas Mbilu leads a past sitting

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr, who is also the Senate Minority Whip, was ranked as the best-performing Senator.

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana had the third highest approval rating of the 47 county chiefs, falling only behind Kakamega’s Wycliffe Oparanya and Kwale’s Salim Mvurya.

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As evidenced by data from the CountyTrak Index of 2015, however, the situation in Makueni was vastly different only a few years ago.

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Turn-Around

Much of the credit for the turn-around goes to Kibwana and the Makueni County Assembly, which in 2015 had the worst approval rating in the country according to the CountyTrak Index.

Unlike many counties whose leaders are constantly in the headlines for wrangles which threaten meaningful development, cooperation has been the hallmark of Makueni particularly in Kibwana’s second term.

The Governor spent much of his first term tussling with MCAs for allegedly sabotaging the county government and its projects, as he accused them of extortion and corruption. Voters seemed to agree with him and, in the polls of 2017, a vast majority of incumbent MCAs in the county were sent home.

The new regime in the assembly, led by Speaker Mbilu, managed to strike a balance between playing the assembly’s oversight role and working harmoniously with the executive.

The assembly’s roles, which include approval of county budgets, borrowing and county development planning, are essential for the execution of projects in the devolved unit.

The assembly has in recent months earned plaudits for various moves; such as the passing of a motion urging the Commission of University Education (CUE) to establish a public university in Makueni to be named Makueni University. 

It has also intervened in issues affecting residents, such as the non-payment of cleaners in markets, hospitals, and other facilities for more than 3 months in August and the disruption of water supply to Emali and Mulula areas in October.

In August, the Assembly also passed a law seeking to entrench transparency in devolved public procurement. Contractors will be required to put up signage with key information including  scope of works to be undertaken, name of contractor’s and subcontractors, contract period and the total contract sum.

Members of the assembly have, however, also faced criticism from a section of residents for awarding themselves hefty sitting allowances.

The Kibwana-led executive, on the other hand, has been behind projects such as the Wote Green Park, a Cancer Unit at the Machakos Referral Hospital, an online portal to track county projects, a milk processing plant and an enhanced fruit processing plant.

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana (centre) adressing a past press briefing

The fruit processing plant, for example, began pulping tomatoes for the first time in October, in a bid to ensure farmers continue earning even when the county’s famed mangoes are out of season.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Infotrak also ranked Makueni as the county with the best condition of life.

“Generally, the people of Makueni are currently more satisfied with their condition of life than residents of most other counties.

“The initiatives by the government to provide better food security, social security, health and public participation have yielded fruit and made the residents relatively more satisfied with their lives than they previously were,” Infotrak noted.

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About the Author

Martin Siele is a senior reporter at Business Today.

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