Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka
Kenyans may have to dig deeper into their pockets to raise billions to buy top-of-the-range vehicles for Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).
If they have their way on the Sh5 million car grant demand, the 2,224 MCAs (1,450 elected and 774 nominated), will cumulatively cost the taxpayer Sh11.12 billion.
Besides a car grant, the MCAs are demanding enhanced travel, mileage and housing allowances, mortgages and a development kitty similar to the National Government Constituency Development Fund to finance projects.
The MCAs’ demands come against the backdrop of economic strain and biting hunger caused by prolonged drought in many parts of the country.
Yesterday, Leader of Majority in the Senate Kipchumba Murkomen and his Minority counterpart James Orengo backed the MCAs’ demands.
The leaders were speaking at the ongoing Annual Legislative Summit, a joint meeting for the Senate and County Assemblies, in Kisumu.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was expected to address the meeting yesterday, did not show up.
MCAs also said they want financial autonomy similar to the one enjoyed by MPs and Senators under the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
They are proposing that they control their own budgets, instead of the money being channelled through the county government.
Led by County Assemblies Forum (CAF) chair Johnson Osoi, vice chair Esther Ndile and secretary general Rebah Wambile, they said they have already drafted a petition to the Senate to amend the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act to give county assemblies financial autonomy.
“We are not demanding too much. Senators, being our big brothers, hold our hands as you lead at the top, we also lead at the grassroots,” said Wambile, a Nominated MCA in Bungoma county.
She argued that the role of county assemblies was not different from that of the Senate and the National Assembly.
“The autonomy of county assemblies must be taken seriously because it touches on our oversight role,” Osoi, who is the Kajiado county Speaker, told the delegates.
Orengo said MCAs should enjoy all privileges that are available to Members of the National Assembly and Senators.
“For the MCAs to do their work effectively, there should be some framework to determine what they need to execute their mandate,” said Orengo, who is the Siaya Senator.
Murkomen promised to rally his colleagues in the Senate to amend the Public Finance Management Act to permit county assemblies to have financial autonomy.
“The National Treasury should not be an imperial power that controls resources distributed to County governments and county assemblies,” he said.