Uhuru renders Sonko lame duck governor in new move

Thursday, May 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has accused the National government of frustrating the county. Photo/PD/File

President Uhuru Kenyatta has rendered embattled Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko a lame duck after he submitted to Parliament a budgetary request for the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) which has taken over key functions at City Hall.

If approved, Uhuru’s request, through Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, will effectively edge Sonko out of the control of City Hall affairs, which have largely been taken over by the Maj-Gen Mohamed Badi-led  NMS.

Sonko has been engaging in a supremacy battle with the NMS after he denied it funding by rejecting a supplementary budget approved by the County Assembly, in a move seen as calculated to cripple its operations.

The Assembly had passed the bill on April 2, but Sonko declined to assent to it, accusing MCAs of allocating funds to functions that had not been transferred to the NMS, a position that was backed by Solicitor General Ken Ogeto, leaving the Badi unit cash-strapped.

Mukuru project

But in a move that could deepen Sonko’s troubles, Kinyua has asked the National Treasury to allocate an estimated Sh26 billion to NMS for the 2020/2021 financial year, money which has been put under the Presidency.

Consequently, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani has written to National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai, seeking an amendment to next financial year’s budget estimates, and allocate “Sh24.6 billion on account of Nairobi Metropolitan Service and Sh1.5 billion for Mukuru Renewal Project under NMS”.

“Head of Public Service submitted the Budget Estimates for Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) after our submission to Parliament.

In this regard, we request for inclusion of NMS budget estimates in the National Government budget under the Presidency,” reads the letter to Sialai, dated May 14, 2020.

According to Yatani, the money, which will give NMS financial independence devoid of Sonko’s interference, will be raised from budget realignment, additional funding from development partners and mopping up of surplus cash from parastatals.

The money being sought, if approved, will be nearly double the city’s current financial year’s annual exchequer funding of Sh16.5 billion.

Besides frustrating NMS by denying it funding, Sonko has been threatening to pull out of the deal that took away key functions including health, public works and finance, from City Hall.

“I will not sign, in fact, this is the time to terminate the Transfer of Deed. I have not been furnished with a copy of the Deed. I was not given sufficient time to even read the draft,” Sonko had said recently.

Lawyer Ndegwa Njiru said Uhuru’s move to take control of the NMS finances by placing it under his office was an indication that he was uncomfortable with the governor’s conduct which would have threatened his vision for the capital city, especially after Sonko frustrated the budget and warned that he would withdraw from the NMS agreement.

Governor wounded

This, Njiru said, could be the last nail in Sonko’s City Hall coffin. The lawyer noted that the governor has thrust himself in the Jubilee Party wars pitting the President and his deputy William Ruto.

“When he (Sonko) removed his gloves to fight NMS which is a creation of the President... the man (Uhuru) who wanted to save him by correcting his image will also have to remove his gloves.” 

By financing NMS through his office and not the County Assembly, where the governor is accused of interference, Njiru said the President is now in control of the county, leaving the governor wounded.

The new move, he said, will keep Sonko out of the picture of county affairs since without involvement in expenditure, he will have no role in programme implementation.

But Sonko’s camp is reading mischief from the recent developments, saying the allocation of Sh26 billion to NMS, which is supposed to undertake four county functions, was an indication that the National government was deliberately frustrating the county by failing to allocate it sufficient funds.

Sonko’s spokesperson Ben Mulwa, told the People Daily that since the advent of devolution, the county has not received more than Sh16 billion from the Treasury.

“Former governor (Evans) Kidero) never got that kind of money (being requested for NMS) to do what he wanted. Sonko, too, has not got it. Treasury says they have Sh26 billion... why was the money not released to the county before?” he posed.

He denied that Sonko was frustrating the take-over process and undermining NMS, saying all he has been uncomfortable with was the process and some operations that are not within the law.

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