H.E. James Ongwae' s speech during celebrations to mark one year into devolution

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Ladies and Gentlemen


It gives me great pleasure to address you on this important occasion marking the first anniversary into devolution.


On 27th March, 2013, my deputy and I were duly sworn into office with a mandate to serve the people of Kisii County on the basis of the pledges contained in our campaign manifesto wherein we envisaged a peaceful society nurtured by virtues of diligence, integrity, respect and honour, and where every child had access to quality education and healthcare and every school leaver, and every adult had access to gainful employment, social protection and social healthcare.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to assure you that despite the many challenges and disruptive allegations from my political opponents, some of which verge on the absurd, we have managed to make significant strides towards implementing our development agenda to ensure that the residents of Kisii County enjoy the fruits of devolution. The Kisii County Government is now fully operational and is boldly moving forward and breaking new grounds in ensuring improved service delivery to our people.

It is now one year since we took office, and this occasion has been set aside to provide a forum for those of us whom you elected to come to you and report back on how we have performed on the pledges we made to you.In my address today, I will briefly highlight the achievements in each of the departments, the challenges we have encountered, and our plans as we move forward.

1. Administration

Ladies and Gentlemen, as would be expected of any new institution, our first task was the setting up of the requisite institutional framework which we successfully completed within record time.

We established the cabinet comprising 10 ministers and we amalgamated many government departments into the ten departments as given by schedule four of the constitution.

I wish to express my sincerest appreciation and gratitude to the Honourable Speaker for guiding the honourable members of the assembly to deliberate on and conduct their oversight role in such a professional and nonpartisan manner witnessed in very few other counties.

Due to their commitment to the oath they took to diligently serve the people of Kisii County, we have succeeded in channelling most of our energies to development matters rather on resolving internal territorial conflicts. I trust that this attitude will continue to prevail as we now move into more aggressively implementing our development agenda.

The county government has also recruited nine sub county administrators and 45 ward administrators picked from each of the wards and thus giving employment opportunities to many graduates who had stayed for years without getting jobs in the public service. These administrators underwent an induction course at the Kenya School of Government in February before posting.

Apart from establishing the requisite institutional framework, we also needed to prepare a clear road map outlining the development path we intend to pursue over the medium term. I am also delighted to inform you that we have finalised our County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) and this too has been debated and approved by the County Assembly. This Plan is currently with the printers and will soon be available to members of the public for information and reference purposes. The document is also available on our website, for those who have access to the internet.

2. Health Services

As I have mentioned many times in my messages, my government has placed high priority on the health sector. This sector has for a long time faced challenges including inadequate financing; dilapidated physical facilities; unreliable supply of drugs; absence of adequate medical equipment; and shortage of qualified medical staff.

During my inaugural address, I elaborated various interventions I intended to put in place to improve access to healthcare services for the people of Kisii County. I am delighted to inform you that those interventions are on schedule and we have already started seeing the benefits to our people.

Firstly, my government recently launched an ambulatory service under a Public, Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with the Kenya Red Cross.

Each of the nine sub county hospitals has a state-of-the-art ambulance operated by qualified paramedics which has boosted referrals of critical cases by over 340 per cent with that of pregnant mothers increasing by 300 per cent.

In the new financial year, we intend to buy 9 (nine) more ambulances to cater for the sub counties.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to emphasise here that all transfers made within Kisii County are free, and since their introduction in November last year, we have carried out over 1,463 escorts of people who would probably have lost their lives. In the spirit of good neighbourliness, our ambulances were called upon to go and save lives during the mass accident that took place in Rongo, in Migori County attesting to the fact that we had made a good decision in starting the service.

Secondly, in a similar PPP arrangement with Kenya Commercial Bank, my government has managed to set up a Renal Unit at the Kisii Level Five Hospital, a facility it has lacked since 1916 when it was established. On yet other arrangements, Chase Bank renovated and equipped the orthopaedic ward at the facility, while Care Kenya provided orthopaedic diagnostic equipment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to report that Kisii Level 5 Hospital has now started offering dialysis at subsidized rates, a timely reprieve for many residents who previously had to travel to Nairobi for the service.

Thirdly, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with investors who will soon be coming to set up the following healthcare facilities in Kisii County.

  • A state of the art diagnostic laboratory
  • Anendoscopic unit in Kisii County
  • Setting up of orthopaedic surgery equipment (surgical sets and image intensifiers);
  • Theatres in all 9 sub-county hospitals;
  • Simple imaging equipment at the sub-county hospitals; and
  • Training and capacity building for healthcare providers.

We are ensuring adequacy of medical supplies in our health institutions and indeed we recently distributed drugs worth Sh 54 million that have been distributed to health facilities in all sub counties. We have placed an order for drugs worth a further Sh 54 million.

The above notwithstanding, I am happy to report that we are in the final stages of turning Kisii Level Five Hospital into a teaching and referral facility. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with Kisii University and finalized the teaching protocols including the curriculum over the matter. The Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital bill has been approved by the Kisii County Assembly.

To the health personnel in Kisii County and our collaborators – the Kenya Red Cross, KCB, Chase Bank, and Care Kenya, I thank you most sincerely for the foresight and the excellent work of saving lives. May I exhort other private organisations and individuals to come forward and also pitch in with us to ensure that our people receive the best healthcare services in Kenya.

Some of the challenges we have had to contend with in this sector include politicising of this noble initiative; the poor road network in most rural health facilities; the inadequate infrastructure and shortage of specialised personnel in our health facilities.

I wish to confirm to you that we have isolated these issues and have earmarked them for priority funding during the next financial year beginning in July 2014.

3. Roads, Public Works and Transport

Ladies and Gentlemen, the second sector that I prioritized in my inaugural address to you one year ago was infrastructure. Our county has a total of 1,885.6 kms of road network, out of which only 123.8 kms are tarmacked. In the urban centres, we have a total of 79 kms of roads out of which only 17 kms are tarmacked. Although the county is served by these roads, our greatest challenge has been maintenance due to the absence of the necessary equipment.

My government realizes the importance of a good road network in unlocking the county’s economic potential, and I am happy to report to you that we have now purchased So far we have procured the following seven road construction equipment including two motor graders, two Drum Rollers, two excavators, One Wheel Loader, One low loader and One double cabin pick up for supervision.

Three 15-tonne tippers are awaiting delivery at a cost. Ultimately, we intend to purchase one grader for each sub-county to ensure our roads are properly maintained in support of our economic development.

It was indeed my greatest pleasure to flag off the road construction and maintenance programme on Monday, 17th March 2014, where we are building over 255 km of compacted murram roads within all the 45 wards in Kisii County.

These roads will be constructed to the highest standards to ensure that they last several years. I wish to confirm to members of the public that while awarding these tenders, youth and women were given special consideration in line with the National Policy on Youth and Women Empowerment. Accordingly, the youth were awarded tenders to the tune of KShs.50 million, equivalent to 18 per cent of the total project cost, while women were awarded tenders to the tune of KShs.29 million, equivalent to 10.4 per cent of total project cost.

The second phase of our roads improvement programme will be ensuring that there is a tarmac road in each ward in line with your submissions at the public hearings during the preparation of the County Integrated Development Plan. The specific roads to be tarmacked have been approved by the Assembly and are contained in the CIDP.

We are also undertaking new projects and renovations in various sites at an estimated cost of Sh 696 million. These include:

  1. Construction of 90 ECD classrooms; 2 classrooms per ward
  2. Construction of county markets at Marani and Itibo
  3. Construction of toilets at Suneka, Nyamache, Masimba, Nyamarambe, Keumbu, Ogembo, Nyakoe, Marani, Kenyenya and Daraja Mbili
  4. Construction of town halls at Mosocho, Marani and Kenyenya
  5. Construction of wards offices in each ward
  6. Construction of Daraja Mbili Market Sheds
  7. Renovation of Gusii Stadium complete with new toilets, a new stand, a wall, a separate warm up field,  floodlights


 4.     Trade and Industry

Ladies and Gentlemen, Kisii County presents a very dynamic and fast growing destination for investment. Kisii Town alone has more than 25 banks and we control more than 60 per cent of the money market in the whole of the south-western region of this country.

My government realises that without a sound industrial/manufacturing base, Kisii County cannot effectively reverse the current high incidence of poverty that is hindering economic growth and development I am pleased to report that in support of the small-scale businesses in the county, my government has already disbursed KShs.1.5 million through the Joint Loans Board.

Similarly, I am also pleased to report that the sector has also received a major boost with the setting up of a KSh300 million avocado processing plant by Turkish and Australian investors. The construction of the factory at the Kenya Industrial Estates in Kisii Town is almost complete and production is set to begin in May this year.

I call upon the youth and women to take advantage of this opportunity and form groups that will produce and supply this fruit to the factory.

We are also in talks with the Iranian Embassy which has expressed interest in buying our bananas and they are willing to partner with us in establishing a banana packaging plant. I wish to urge other investors to come forward and invest in the processing and in packaging of fruits and vegetables as these are available in sufficient quantities to support a medium sized industry.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To boost earnings from the soapstone industry, I am happy to report that we also have held talks with an investor who will put up a factory in South Mogirango to process the unique stone.

Quarry owners and miners will sell their rock to the factory that will crush it ready for value addition. The factory will cater for first level value addition which will attract other investors that will buy the ready raw material to produce products like talc, ceramics, paint and terrazzo.

We have also approved a sugar factory in South Mugirango but we are faced with a challenge of identifying land and the location for the project.


5.     Lands, Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development

In the area of Lands, Housing and Urban development, we have already realised the following:


  • A taskforce consisting County Executives, Members of the County Assembly and Motor Cycle leaders of Kisii Town has identified routes for boda boda use and determined the stations where shades will be constructed for their use. The implementation of the recommendations of the taskforce is expected to ease traffic flow within the CBD.
  • Noting the high accident rates of boda boda users, my government partnered with the Kenya Institute of Highways and Building Technology (KIHBT) in designing a and carrying out a training programme with input from the motor cycle business community. The training curriculum focuses on safe riding and traffic law. It will be replicated throughout the County with the divisional Headquarters serving as venues. This is expected to be complete by June 2014.
  • Organization of parking in Kisii Town: My government has marked 258 parking slots in Kisii Town and work is on-going. The target is to mark all slots to strengthen organization of parking in the town.
  • In January this year, we launched an Integrated Cleaning Program for Kisii Town. The town was divided into six zones for ease of management and achievement of the cleanliness desired. Registered youth groups were given opportunity to bid for the programme in yet another initiative of availing a source of income to our youth. The outreach part of this program covers Kegati, Keumbu and Nyakoe markets. The first and second monthly reports have shown that the program has tremendously improved the state of cleanliness of the town and outreach areas thus achieving its objectives. We are in the process of purchasing two garbage compactors, 20 solid waste skips, two tractors and four lorries for proper waste management in the town
  • We have been working with hawkers in Kisii Town to reorganize the hawking activities. Significant progress has been realized in reorganizing them to operate within certain areas and participate in cleaning their areas of operations.
  • The County Government has finalized discussions for purchase of a waste disposal site. The site is due to be acquired in the month of April, 2014. This will be a marked development given that Kisii Town does not have a waste disposal site.


 Other activities we are currently involved in are:

  • Beaconing of public land in the County. The project kicks off in April 2014 and will continue for the next three months. It targets major public lands throughout the County.
  • Completion of Suneka, Tabaka and Nyamarambe Towns halls. Implementation of these projects kicks off in April and is expected to be completed before June 2014.
  • Construction of town halls at Marani, Kenyenya and Mosocho. Land for construction of these town halls has been identified, surveyed and architectural designs completed. The construction work starts in April
  • Preparation of Inventory of the Government Houses is currently going and expected to be completed by April 2014.
  • County Integrated Street lighting Program. The program consists of two projects. The first project is funded by the County Government which will install street lights in all sub County headquarters including parts of Kisii Town while for the second project; the County Government has signed a contract with an investor to install solar street lights within the Central Business District of Kisii Town. Implementation of the projects starts in April 2014.
  • Preparation of the Physical Development Plan for Nyamache Town is currently on-going. Significant progress has been made. The plan is expected to be completed by June 2014.


  • Drainage systems covering and maintenance. The County Government will cover all open drains and manholes in Kisii Town before June 2014. The contractor will start work soon.

This will be yet another project that will go a long way in promoting the status of Kisii Town and enhancing the integrated cleaning program


6.     Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative Development

The agricultural sector is the backbone of Kenya and indeed the economy of Kisii County with an estimated value of about KShs.65 billion. To achieve the desired economic growth of 10% per annum as envisaged under the economic pillar of vision 2030, we must transform the sector from subsistence to a modern, innovative and commercially viable industry.

It is expected that with increased productivity, commercialization and enhanced competitiveness of agricultural production, the core objectives of creation of employment, food security and increase in incomes among farmers in the county will be realized.

Although the main cash crops are tea and coffee I have held discussions with investors who have shown interest in reviving the pyrethrum industry. I will be holding discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss the implications of the 2013 Pyrethrum Act which seems to accord monopoly status to Pyrethrum Board of Kenya and thus inimical to private sector investment.

 Key achievements

  •  Sh 6 million has been spent to procure demonstration green houses, Sh 3m on hydroponics and aquaponics (new technology integrating fish farming with green house farming)
  • Sh 10 million has been spent to procure farm inputs which will be distributed to needy farmers in the month of April. Selection of farmers will be done through a participatory system at the ward level. Each selected farmer will receive 25kgs each of DAP and CAN and 5kgs maize seed.
  • We have procured 50,000 tissue culture banana farmers to be distributed to farmers in the whole county with each ward getting about 5500 plants.
  • Sh 1.4m has been spent to procure soil sampling kits and each ward will get one kit. This will determine soil conditions and enable appropriate fertilizer and manure application.
  • Feasibility studies and project proposal for an integrated fruits and vegetable processing factory are ready. This factory will cost about 300m and will be important in mopping up excess fruits and vegetables for processing thereby improving market reliability and earnings for farmers. It will also address the issue of middlemen exploiting farmers.
  • A Kshs 3m kitty has been set aside to procure local chicken to distribute to students, youth and women groups in conjunction with the One-Hen-Campaign. This value chain has a lot of potential for poverty eradication in the county.

Under the smallholder dairy improvement program, some groups such as Kenyuni women groups, Nawiri cooperative, Mosocho milk vendors, and Mosocho umbrella group have received deep freezers and cheques of up to 100k for value addition.

Money has also been set aside to help dairy farmer groups and cooperatives to establish feed mills. Other bigger groups like Matibo, Bobasi and Machoge Borabu will be assisted to set up milk cooling plants since their potential is much larger. Once big volumes have been established consistently, a milk processing plant will be put up to serve the whole county.


  • Sh 10m has been set aside to construct 350 fish ponds throughout the county. Sh 4 million has also been set aside for establishment of aqua shops to support the fishing industry.
  • Sh 15 million will be spent to purchase fingerlings and feed to support the 350 fish ponds for one cycle.
  • Sh 9.5million to modernize the fish selling market in Kisii town.
  • The current fish market in Kisii County is estimated at 165m annually.


  • A task force appointed by the minister to look into the affairs of the coffee industry is about to complete its work. Indeed they have already visited Nyeri and Murango Coffee Management Saccos.
  • A small grant has been extended by USAID to help improve capacity and governance in the cooperatives sector.
  • We are mobilizing cooperatives to raise new money to take advantage of investment opportunities in the county and beyond.

Education, Labour and Manpower Development

The county government is only mandated to handle early childhood education. Early childhood education is critical in the development of any society. My government has set aside KShs.67 million for the construction of Early Childhood Education (ECD) centres in each of the 45 wards in the county. I wish to confirm to you that I have issued instructions to ensure that in awarding these contracts we ensure that the beneficiaries are residents of the respective wards.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are in the process of recruiting 800 ECD teachers to work in these centres and the ultimate objective is to have each primary school have one such facility. Interviews for these teachers have been concluded, and we are currently doing the evaluation. We shall distribute ECD learning materials to at least four centres per ward.

My government is committed to rehabilitate and equip all youth polytechnics to enable them offer relevant crafts and technical courses that are relevant to county development. In this regard, we have set aside KShs.22.5 million towards the construction and equipping of workshops in selected youth polytechnics in the county with each ward getting KShs.1.5 million. As with ECD centres, I have issued instructions to ensure that the construction will be done by prequalified firms preferably those from the respective wards.

I take this chance to congratulate our schools that performed well in the KCSE results released recently. Kisii County was ranked in position 25 up from 32 in 2012. Kisii School, St. Charles Lwanga Ichuni, Kereri Girls, Nyakoiba and Nyabigena Secondary were among the standout performers.

We need to partner with the national government to improve education standards in the county.

Going forward, we have planned a major education conference in May this year which will bring together all stakeholders to identify the challenges in the sector and chart a way forward.

We have set up a bursary fund through the Kisii County Assembly that will assist needy students in the county.

We are also in talks with the Kenya National Library Service with the help of board chairman Samwel Nyangeso to work on modalities of setting up community libraries in the sub counties.

7.     Culture, Sports, Youth and Social Services

In the area of Youth, Sports, Culture and Social Services, we have also realised considerable progress bearing in mind that some of the functions in this sector are still with the national government and we cannot initiate any activities as funds for those activities are with the national government. For those functions that have been devolved, we have realised the following:

  • The construction of Kisii Cultural Centre is complete.
  • A cultural library in Kisii Town is also complete.
  • The Omogusii homestead is complete.
  • Sub-county cultural festivals were successfully carried out and based on the positive participation; they will now be featured annually

In the interest of promoting Gusii Culture, we are supporting the council of elders. We have identified an office for them situated opposite Kisii School and renovation work is on-going. We have also set aside a budget for them and hired two staff to work for the council. A number of cultural activities are lined up this year.

In the area of sports, we have embarked on various activities that are beginning to place Kisii County on the national and international limelight. Our team participated the national cycling championship held on 10th November last year and am happy to report that our daughter, Joyce Nyaruri Matara took position one in the ladies competition, while our sons Job Oyiego Kaosa and Haron Gwaya took position one and four respectively in wheelchair cycling. These three have joined the national team that will represent Kenya in the Commonwealth games in Scotland

The Governor’s football tournament kicked off in the month of November starting from the ward levels.

Ladies and gentlemen, going forward,my government intends to upgrade Kisii stadium to international standards so that it can host international sports and events. We also intend to build one stadium in every sub county to encourage sports from the grassroots.

8.     Energy, Water, Environment and Natural Resources

Ladies and gentlemen, energy is very critical in the development of a society. In Kisii County, connectivity to households stands at 7 per cent which is far below the desired level of connectivity. I have held a meeting with officers from Rural Electrification Authority and we have developed a programme to be implemented within the next three years within which every household should have access to electricity.

In the area of water supply, my government is cognizant of the importance of water as a basic need and is committed to improving on connectivity services in the county. We intend to embark on an ambitious programme of spring protection and increase of water supplies in the county.

We have initiated programs to rehabilitate rivers which are highly polluted and recommends for the removal of eucalyptus tree species to conserve riparian areas. This will go a very long way to achieve a sustainable environment. The county government is in the process of developing environmental sampling and analysis manuals to serve as standards in environmental management.

We have also set out to undertake environmental impact assessment for all developing projects to comply and also achieve sustainable development.

German Development Bank (KFW) has offered to invest Sh 1.8 billion to modernize the water supply and sanitation system for Kisii Town and its environs. A consultant is currently working with Gusii Water and Sanitation Company (Gwasco) to collect primary data for design and implementation of the project.

The project to be implemented through Lake Victoria South Water Services Board will involve the rehabilitation of 25km of the existing distribution system and construction of 100km of a new distribution system. It will also reduce water wastage in the town and improve the supply from the current 18hours a day to 24/7.

The sewerage system in town will be upgraded and the treatment plant at Suneka will be fine-tuned to polish the final effluent from the works and eliminate the current menace of smell and pollution of river Riana.

Under the same donor intervention, ORIO of Netherlands have agreed to co-sponsor/implement with the Germans and their component of the implementation plan is to construct a dam and a water treatment plant at Bonyunyu which will gravitate to Kisii Town and all the sub counties.

ORIO group will also construct a mini-hydro power plant at Nyakwana on River Gucha to serve the water supply treatment plants in Kisii County and this will reduce the amount of energy consumed during production and thus make the commodity affordable to residents.

The African Development Bank (ADB) is currently rehabilitating the Kegati Water Supply plant to boost its capacity from the current 600,000 litres to 6 million litres of water daily and also construct conservancy tanks to provide sanitation to the peri-urban area of the town.

All these interventions are currently on-going and will be finalized by the end of 2017.

Other interventions

A total number of five springs per ward at a cost of Sh 1 million translating to 225 springs in all 45 wards will be constructed in the current financial year. The endeavour will bring on board an estimated extra population of about 110,000 people within the county that can access safe drinking water.  

In a bid to boost access to clean, safe drinking water within reasonable walking distances, the county to develop at least 45 boreholes across the county. The ultimate goal is to have each household in the county accessing reticulated water.

Deserving institutions such as schools, health institutions and youth vocational centres have been earmarked to receive rain water harvesting tanks. We have procured 45 tanks that will be distributed to selected schools in all the wards.

This will facilitate access to potable water for a population of an estimated 28,500 people in institutions.

9.   Finance and Economic Planning

For our county to be effective and offer critical services to our people, we need to be efficient in revenue mobilization. Though the main source of revenue is National Government transfers, we also need to enhance and exhaust local revenue collection. To this end, and as part of our revenue enhancement plan, my Government has undertaken the following activities:

  • We have signed a contract with Diamond Trust Bank to collect revenue from parking fees, bus park and boda boda operators. This will be done electronically and the payment booths have already been placed at strategic points for ease of payment purposes. We are currently undertaking publicity campaigns and the programme is expected to be rolled out in the month April this year.
  • We have drafted the necessary bill and once approved, it will form the basis for collecting the revenue due to the county. I wish to assure residents of Kisii County that my government will institute adequate consultation with the public in the preparation of all bills for debate in our county assembly.
  • The County government is in the process of undertaking revenue potential assessment through a reputable firm Deloitte and Touch. This activity is aimed at tapping the unexploited revenue sources of Kisii County.


Ladies and Gentlemen, these achievements I have enumerated have only been possible due to the total commitment of members of the county staff and your support. I wish to once again thank our honourable members of the county assembly for the cordial working relationship we have so far maintained within the county government, which has enabled us realise these achievements. I also thank the Executive Committee Members and their staff for these successes as they are the ones on the ground implementing these programmes and projects. Last, but not least, I wish to particularly thank the technical team in my office for the advice and general guidance on the running of the county affairs. I appreciate the long hours you have put in developing various policy documents and statements, sometimes at very short notice, and the professionalism you have demonstrated in discharging your various duties.

Now that the institutional framework is in place, we must get off the runway and start delivering what the taxpayer pays us for.

In conclusion Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to affirm to you that despite the various attempts from various quarters to derail devolution, devolution is here to stay.

Let me also remind you that devolution is not only meant to transfer resources from the national government to the county and end there.

NO! Devolution will only be complete once we transfer resources all the way to the ward level, for that is where mwananchi stays. That is why during the next phase, we will be establishing structures all the way to the village level to ensure that all members of the public enjoy the fruits of devolution. It is only thus that we will be able to unleash the potential of Kisii County and move our nation to a middle level income economy.

Thank you! May God bless you!