Uproar as Kisumu MCAs make another bonding trip to Tanzania

POLITICS |

Kisumu County MCAs during a past session. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Forty-seven Members of Kisumu County Assembly (MCAs) have been heavily criticised for making a week-long bonding trip to Tanzania.

The MCAs left the country on Monday for the trip with a number of senior assembly staff. Sources said some MCAs were destined for Dar-es-Salaam, while others went to Mwanza.

The mission was not clear and was just described as a ‘bench-marking trip by a committee of the whole house.’

In 2017, a similar ‘bonding trip’ caused an uproar with the previous team accused of blowing Sh15 million.

The latest trip comes in the wake of reports that Kisumu County spent Sh2.16 million on foreign travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The MCAs are on a week-long benchmarking tour in Tanzania,” a senior official said yesterday.

The travel comes when Kisumu was among 13 counties put under the red zone after a surge in Covid-19 cases and a partial curfew imposed from 7pm to 4am.

Kisumu MCAs, 2014. [Titus Munala, Stamdard]

Ironically, the MCAs, supposed to legislate on measures to contain the virus are in Tanzania, at a time when the country is grappling with the pandemic.

Under President Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania is now dealing with the pandemic after the late President John Magufulu downplayed the threat.

President Suluhu received her jab publicly on Wednesday to encourage citizens to take coronavirus reality and mitigation measures seriously.

The surprise travel by Kisumu MCAs comes amid concerns that the county government has splurged more than Sh90 million in domestic travel in financial year 2020/2021, according to a report by the controller of budget Margaret Nyakang'o.

President Kenyatta had suspended non-essential travel by state officers during the pandemic period.

"During the period, expenditure on domestic travel amounted to Sh91.64 million and comprised of Sh42.70 million spent by the County Assembly and Sh48.90 million by the County Executive. Expenditure on foreign travel amounted to Sh2.16 million paid by the County Assembly," the report by the controller of budget reads ?in part.

Efforts to reach out to the assembly leadership for more information on the trip were unsuccessful where phone calls and text messages to Speaker Elisha Oraro and Clerk Owen Ojuok went unanswered.?

The Speaker’s spokesperson Dennis Onyango could also not confirm or deny the trip but promised to respond later.

Speaker Elisha Oraro addressing Kisumu County Assembly, February 9, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

After nearly 24 hours, he is yet to respond. A junior employee at the Assembly said there were no benchmarking plans, and it is only the Speaker and Clerk who can explain why a team was in Tanzania.

In 2017, Kisumu residents castigated the MCAs for going on a Sh15 million “bonding trip” to Tanzania at a crucial time when regional leaders led by then-CORD leader Raila Odinga, was traversing the county to mobilise locals to register as voters.

The MCAs, then on recess, travelled to Tanzania, where each of the 47 members allegedly pocketed Sh260,000 allowance. Some members, however, took the allowances but remained in Kisumu.

The assembly has been in the spotlight over the number of trips sanctioned by the House, with a report by the Auditor-General showing that the House spent Sh78 million to fund foreign trips in the past two years.

Among the destinations the MCAs have visited are Uganda, China, Singapore and Israel among others.

[Additional reporting by Brian Otieno]

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