County Assemblies accused of going to bed with governors

Thursday, August 15th, 2019 00:00 |
A County Assembly in session. Critics say their role has been compromised by bribery and blackmail by greedy governors. Photo/Raphael Munge

Doubts have been raised about the ability of County Assemblies to effectively play their oversight role, with a majority being accused of “going to bed” with the Executive.

Critics say MCAs have negated their role of putting the county governments on their toes by serving the interests of governors in return for favours.

Multiple interviews with, and comments by, senators and MCAs, paint a picture of Assemblies which are hapless in the face of  the  excesses of some governors.

Lack of financial autonomy, where the assemblies have to depend on allocations from the governors, and a wanting formula for nomination of MCAs, have been cited as some of the factors that compromise the effectiveness of County Assemblies. 

Enhance accountability

While defending his Assembly against claims of “sleeping” with the Executive, Kiambu Speaker Stephen Ndicho said: “We cannot afford to have a tiff with the governor because we are part of the county government and the House might suffer.

When allocation of funds delay, the county lends us because we are in good terms and we can pay salaries for staff and members, but if we are at war, we will suffer a cash crunch.”

Senator Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) said the Senate was looking into the ways Assemblies can get finances directly from the Treasury to enhance accountability.

County Assemblies have accused governors of abusing their financial dependence to manipulate MCAs.

Other than delaying financial disbursement to Assemblies, governors allegedly buy MCAs’ loyalty using handouts, bribes, lucrative foreign or local trips, among other inducements.

Financial dependence

But MCAs have also been accused of taking advantage of graft in counties to extort from the Executive using threats of impeachment or refusal to pass legislation.

Tenders are also said to be another bait that governors use to keep MCAs in check.

Former Kiambu county Chief Finance Officer Faith Njeri, who  resigned citing interference by Governor Ferdinand Waititu, said most MCAs had been “pocketed” by the governor.

“Tenders are being awarded to the MCAs in the county so as to compromise their oversight and independence of the Assembly,” she had said while announcing her resignation.

Samuel Kimani, who is the Kinoo MCA, agrees that governors take advantage of financial dependence to suppress Assemblies.

“If they want a certain legislation to go through or even kill oversight, they will organise unnecessary retreats and workshops where MCAs will get allowances so that they agree with the wishes of the Executive,” said Kimani. 

Carrot and stick

Nyandarua Speaker Ndegwa Wahome admits that lack of financial autonomy in county assemblies, which he termed as “financial imperialism by governors” has compromised their role.

For the Assemblies to be effective, Ndegwa said Public Finance  and the Commission on Revenue Allocation Acts, should be amended.

 “It has been used (by governors) as carrot and stick to push for the approval of budgets. We (County Assemblies) must  get  financial freedom since the current set-up is a serious drawback to the oversight role by assemblies,” he said.

Senator Irung’u Kang’ata (Murang’a), who has been pushing for the creation of the Ward Development Bill, said governors deny projects to certain wards to punish MCAs who do not agree with them.  

Politician Gladys Chania, who served as a coordinator of the defunct TNA party, said to have strong assemblies, political parties should also empower the nominated MCAs to ensure they serve the interests of the party, not individuals.

“Nominated MCAs are supposed to get instructions from party secretaries general, not governors. Parties need to nominate the right people and ensure they are empowered so that they can stop being misused by governors,” she said.

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