MCAs demand freedom to run own finances

Friday, November 20th, 2020 00:00 |
Nyandarua Speaker Ndegwa Wahome with his Kajiado counterpart (right) Johnson Osoi at a press briefing. Photo/PD/David Ndolo

Eric Wainaina EWainaina

Members of County Assemblies (MCAs)  have intensified their push to have the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report amended to grant them financial autonomy.

The MCAs decried the current law, which requires that county assemblies get consent of their respective Finance Minister before accessing funds from the Controller of Budget.

Ward Reps, through the County Assemblies Forum (CAF), want the National Assembly to amend the Public Finance Management Act to remove the provision, saying it undermines the independence of county assemblies. 

This, according to Nyandarua Speaker Ndegwa Wahome, also the CAF chairman, leaves MCAs at the mercy of governors.

According to Ndegwa, unscrupulous county bosses have exploited this provision to punish county assemblies that do not do their bidding by failing to approve or slashing their budgets.

Ndegwa noted that currently, there were four county assemblies, which are yet to pay their Ward Reps and staff for the last four months because their budgets have not been approved by their respective county governments. 

Other than delaying financial disbursements to counties, governors allegedly “buy” loyalty from MCAs using handouts, bribes and local and foreign workshops where they earn hefty allowances.

Suppress oversight

But according to Ndegwa, for the MCAs to effectively and independently oversight on the Executive, they must be freed from the Executive as far as the control of resources is concerned. 

“Today, four assemblies have not paid members their salaries. Speakers have been put at the mercy of their respective governors who have instructed the ministers not to give consent to their financial requisition.

This has been the trend all over as governors try to suppress oversight. A House can make a requisition of Sh50 million whose consent can be rejected or slashed to Sh20 million,” he added.

 The MCAs are said to have pushed for the amendment of the law to give county assemblies financial autonomy when they met Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga at a Nairobi Hotel on Tuesday as a condition for supporting the constitutional reform project.

Raila is said to have promised that some of their proposals would be looked into.

“They (county assemblies) have said that they need to have autonomy from the Executive.

In other words, that the funding for county assemblies should not be managed by the Executive and the governor, such that they appear to be begging makes sense,” Raila said.

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi has also been pushing for financial autonomy for county assemblies, saying the current law was largely to blame for the compromised oversight by MCAs. 

“Assemblies are critical in ensuring county affairs are run in an accountable and transparent manner.

This amendment will enable them to have the necessary autonomy, and free will to execute their legislative duties without any hindrances,” Wamatangi said yesterday.

“They need to have their independent way of receiving their allocation because what has been happening is that governors arm-twist the MCAs by denying or delaying the money as a way of fighting back whenever they are called to account,” he said.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said the Ward Development Fund as proposed by the BBI report will promote equitable development in all wards and eliminate the culture of tokenism where MCAs have to please the governor in order to get development projects in their area.

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