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I regret taking up this job : The Standard



When Fred Odongo saw a Sh4 million tender advertised by Nakuru County for construction of classrooms, he decided to try his luck despite having no money to fund the project.

And when he got the communication that he had successfully won the tender, he had to think of ways of raising some capital to see it through.
His first stop was his inheritance-land, which he sold. But still this was not enough and he approached the Youth Enterprise Fund for a loan.
With the letter of award, he easily secured the loan. Five years later, what should have been a dream come true has turned into his worst nightmare.
He spent the last coin to put up two two Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) classrooms in Kuresoi South Constituency. But the county is yet to pay him Sh3.5 million for work done.
His land is gone.  On top of that, the Youth Fund Enterprise has blacklisted him and also forwarded his name to Credit Reference Bureau where he has also been blacklisted.
The loan he took has been rapidly accruing interest, and Odongo is afraid that one day the fund might come calling with auctioneers in tow or take him to court for defaulting.
“It is terrible. The county cannot pay me and I cannot access any credit facility after both Youth Fund and CRB blacklisted me,” he told The Standard yesterday.
Odongo won the contract in 2014 during Governor Kinuthia Mbugua’s tenure.
Governor Mbugua has since left and Governor Lee Kinyanjui taken over. But Odongo is yet to get his money.
“I am frustrated man. I did my part, but I am being taken round in circles to the point that no one wants to see me at the county’s treasury offices,” he said.
 He said the county only paid him Sh500,000 on the Sh4m project.
“It is the pain of selling my ancestral land and also being black listed that is ruining me. Other businesses I ran experienced financial turbulence because I pumped all the money to the county project hoping that I would get paid,” he said. 
Odongo’s tribulations capture the plight of thousands of suppliers who are collectively owed Sh108 billion by counties.
He walks with the letter of tender award in his bag, a constant reminder of the pain of agreeing to take it.
“We have the pleasure to inform you that the County Government Tender Committee at its meeting No. 1 2014/15 held on October 3, 2014 approved your application to be pre-qualified as a Contractor for Building Construction and Associated Works under the following terms and conditions,” read a letter signed by the then Nakuru County Secretary and Head of Public Service Joseph Motari.
He said in the course of chasing for his payment, his invoices have disappeared three times making him waste more time in a process he had earlier completed.
“For now, no bank has the confidence of loaning me any kind of money to support my work as qualified engineer from the mistakes of Nakuru County Government,” he says.
Among the projects which Odongo’s company undertook include one ECDE classroom and a toilet at San Marco and one ECDE classroom at Kalunguka Kiplemeino both in Kuresoi South.
But now, the contracts are hard to come by.
“My credibility has been diminished from the mistakes, which are not of my own making. I wish they paid me to salvage my reputation and that of my company,” he says.
With plummeting cash flows, Odongo had to relocate his offices from a prime location along Lang’ata Road and relies on small contracts to stay afloat.
He says that the loan he took chocked most of his business for now and he is unable to take on bigger projects.
Even as his woes deepen, Odongo accuses some county officials of demanding kickbacks to unlock his payments.
He claims that rogue officials promised to help him get his money in 45 hours if he agreed to pay them 25 per cent of the amount due.
“There’s a den of cartels and extortionists who take money from contractors and suppliers promising to get their monies owed paid,” he said.
Looking back, Odongo says contracts signed with counties are not worth the paper they are printed on. 
“They are worthless because administrations never keep their end of their bargain,” he says.   

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Fred OdongoNakuru CountyTenderTenderpreneursYouth Enterprise Fund

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