NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 17 – He calls all people he runs into within the corridors of his office by name and follows up with a greeting enquiring how their day is.
It is evident that when staff run into him, they do not meet a boss but a colleague who they easily chat with.
That is the Governor of Machakos County Dr Alfred Mutua.
It’s the same spirit and approach of humility that Mutua uses to manage the county that has earned local and international recognition due to its outstanding performance.
Though it is a semi-arid county, the beautiful Machakos Park surrounded with colourful flowers make the terrain attractive and a perfect area for relaxing.
The tarmacked streets leading to the Governor’s office and surrounding areas have street lighting and CCTV cameras installed on both sides of the roads.
Police cars and ambulances can also be seen at different locations in the county.
As we enter the Governor’s office compound, one cannot ignore the beautiful yellow flowers surrounding the building and separating it from the well maintained lawn.
Sitting at the visitor’s room, from afar, we see the Governor effortlessly engaging with all people – from the tea girl to the cleaner to his ministers.
The cordial and warm working relationship is a strong foundation that has blossomed to the team spirit, perhaps, that explains the commendable development in the County of Machakos.
When Capital FM News met Mutua, he was getting an update about boreholes and he kept on saying ‘we must have more boreholes, everyone must get water’.
Mutua’s experience of governance is heavily borrowed from President Mwai Kibaki’s style of development of strengthening infrastructural and economic projects.
Having widely travelled and lived in the United States of America, United Arab Emirates and Australia, Mutua has also gained global experience.
But for him, it was not a matter of changing his career from the Government Spokesman to a governor.
He had dreams and a proper vision long before he became the governor.
“I asked myself why do I want to be Governor; is it just about myself acquiring a new position or do I want to effect a certain change? And I thought that was important, so I prepared a manifesto that was very clear about what I wanted to achieve,” Mutua told Capital FM News.
The manifesto being like his allegiance to his people is his frequent reference point to evaluate if his agenda is on track.
To begin with, he identified challenges and needs of the people of Machakos.
“I knew our people are very poor we don’t have time to waste. I started knowing what I want to do and also how to do it. I thought about it, I wrote pages and pages, I looked at documents to see what I wanted to do and how I could do it for the sake of the people,” he recalls.
The manifesto is clustered in three tiers of approach.
Provision of basic needs such as water, healthcare, food and security topped his agenda.
On May 27, President Uhuru Kenyatta toured the Machakos Level 5 hospital which is equipped with dialysis and theatre equipment.
According to Mutua sustaining the hospital is of essence in ensuring quality services are offered.
He says professionals, whether inside or outside of Machakos County, should apply for jobs in the hospital.
“We are in competition for skills that are not very many. I have told my people, you don’t chase away doctors, nurses, you don’t chase away people who you need,” he stated.
Having hospitals without drugs and other medical commodities is as good as not having them; “we have signed a deal with KEMSA to ensure we have drugs and commodities.”
The county plans to provide facilities such as homes for the hospital staff and reasonable salaries and allowances.
It has further advertised for 200 positions for new nurses, medical officers, pharmacists and other support staff to work in the hospital.
Exchange programmes for professional staff to travel outside Kenya and also inviting professionals from other countries is also a consideration that Mutua has made to ensure there is training and exchange of ideas in healthcare.
He also plans to establish 40 new community hospitals to close services closer to the people.
The county has 120 security cars, dozens of CCTVs, five call centres spread in sub-counties all with a call centre to ensure people access services within the shortest time possible.
There are also 80 ambulances designated for emergency response.
Creating an enabling environment for economic growth by providing infrastructure and other systems to boost the economy of the county is the second level of Mutua’s development agenda.
As the third agenda, he intends to tackle unemployment which is a national dilemma.
“The third one is having a vision of taking people further – dreaming big in terms of offering employment, bringing investors and exploiting new areas to generate revenue.”
The area is usually dry and experiences perennial drought making it a food insecure region.
Boosting agricultural production through provision of tractors, boreholes and dams as well as giving small farmers chicken to start businesses has been an important entry point to increasing food production in the county prone to perennial drought.
He has also identified a project where he plans to start farming projects of growing green grams and getting a market for them overseas.
Other plans include making it mandatory for every of the 300 families in Machakos County to own between 25 to 50 chicken as an economic base.
Future plans for Machakos include construction of a 2nd city to attract investors and expand employment opportunities not just for Machakos people, but also an effort in assisting the national government to create jobs for the youth.
In the pipeline is construction of about 300 factories that are expected to open thousands of job opportunities.
Through the ‘Maendeleo Chap Chap’ initiative, Mutua said, the county has made a unique approach of timely completion of quality projects to ensure the development agenda is not derailed.
In order to attract local and international tourism, the county has the Machakos Peoples Park but plans to expand the entertainment industry, trading centres and social amenities such as clean toilets.
His dream is to see Machakos as the best performing county in terms of development that also boils down to making an impact in people’s lives.
Despite the ambition and determination to achieve his development goals, it has not been an easy ride.
Mutua has been subject of political bickering and controversy with some accusing him of giving his people a raw deal.
But that has not deterred his focus of delivering to the people of Machakos County.
His advice is that, all leaders should focus on delivering to their people instead of politicking for their own selfish gains.