By Counties Team
NAIROBI, KENYA: A section of the 2,057 Members of the County Assembly (MCA’s) are stoking fresh controversy with a string of demands ranging from provision of guns, bodyguards, drivers as well as exemption from traffic rules.
These demands, some of which contravene the provision set out by the Salaries and Renumeration Commission are likely to spark fresh wave of outrage as the country grapples with what is turning out to be an untenable wage bill
In pressing on with their demands which translate to more money, the MCAs are arguing that they too are entitled to a ‘decent pay’ and the previleges enjoyed by Members of Parliament. In the wake of these demands, one of the strongest supporters of county governments , Kinuthia Wamwangi, the chairman of Transitional Authority describes some of these demands as an unnecessary burden to the taxpayer at a time everybody is talking about reducing the public wage bill.
“It is not illegal to ask for what some of them are asking for but it is a burden. The citizens need to take the MCAs into account. They need to show what they have done. Devolution will only work if each faction follows the law and sticks to its mandate,” he says.
In Mombasa, the MCAs are demanding at least three bodyguards each. They want a guard paid for by the government to accompany them wherever they go and two others to guard their homes all round the clock.
Their colleagues from Taita Taveta want to be exempted from traffic rules. Sagala ward representative Godwin Kilele says the elected leaders should be allowed to break traffic rules owing to their busy schedules.
He has already petitioned Taita Taveta County commander that the ward representatives be allowed to speed because they are “extremely busy people moving up and down to serve the electorate”.
“Sometimes when we are stopped by police manning road blocks, we feel that they are wasting our time because we are either rushing to meet the electorate or attending County Assembly sessions,” he said.
Elsewhere in Nyanza, Members of Siaya County Assembly are demanding millions of shillings each for medical cover, mortgage and car loans.
In a surprise move, the MCAs are also demanding to be paid money to recover the costs they incurred when they bought sleek cars before they were elected to office.
They are demanding a minimum of Sh5 million each as car loan and Sh3 million for medical cover annually and a mortgage of Sh7 million each.
In Meru, the MCAs are using the recent death of their colleague who represented Maua Ward, Abednego Mutembei Miitine, to demand for drivers and bodyguards.
Miitine died when his car rolled at the Subuiga blackspot on the Nairobi-Isiolo Highway early this year.
Through Joseph Kaberia Arimba, they argue that the State should make the provision because like other elected leaders, the MCAs are prone to harm by political enemies.
And in Baringo where five members of the County Assembly were involved in a road accident along Kabarnet- Marigat road, there are plans to spend Sh150 million in addition to Sh2 million car loan given to each MCA.
Citing distance and the poor roads in the county as their major hindrance to their effectiveness in executing their roles, the MCAs unanimously passed the bill which would see each of them drive around in a car of their choice after getting Sh5 million, violating the Sh2 million limit set by SRC.
Defending their move, some of the members said that it was in order for the leaders to obtain a car and a decent home within town to make them available around the assembly as their major role is making laws for the county.
“We deserve better lives like any other leader. Each one of us should own a car and a house in town,” said the MCA who requested to remain anonymous.
In Nyeri the MCAs have received an IPad each and approved amendments to their Car and Mortgage Bill. To push their case, the MCAs argued that they would no longer use matatus because they no longer felt safe in public transport vehicles.
“The members are being forced to hire taxis and hike lifts from their colleagues which is very expensive and embarrassing,” said Aguthi ward representative Paul Waruru.
In Laikipia County Assembly, Dan Ndegwa from Ol Moran C ward stunned the house mid last year, by calling on the national government to give his colleagues licenses to carry firearms-for their own security.
Ndegwa observed that governors, their deputies, senators and MPs have been given armed security and they should also be armed.
“Mr Speaker, we are not asking for bodyguards because that would be impossible to achieve, but we are asking the government to give us licenses to carry firearms,” said Ndegwa during the debate.
In Narok County, MCAs want to enjoy all the powers and the privileges provided to MPs. Consequently the MCAs through the Powers and Privileges Bill, want money and are vowing to support the bill once it returns back to the house.
According to Bob Maren, the Narok County Assembly Minority Leader, unlike other MCAs in the country who go for car loans and mortgages, his colleagues propose to be given cash instead of cars or bodyguards.
“We need real cash. We should be given the privileges the lawmakers have,” said Maren
However, in Samburu County, one of the poorest counties in the country, the MCAs are demanding a bodyguard each, citing insecurity as their major reason.
They want the county government also to provide them with cars for efficient transportation and to be allowed to access grants as opposed to loans.
In Nakuru County, the MCAs are demanding to be provided with security saying that most of them have received threatening text messages in the past.
According to Moses Ndung’u, the chairman Budget and Appropriation Committee, members have broken ranks with their colleagues due to the nature of motions.
“We need security but we are still looking into it. Once each of us obtains a house and a car through the car and mortgages we are entitled to, we will demand personal guards for our security,” said Ndung’u.
In Kisumu County , the ward representatives have resolved to transform their loan scheme into a grant arguing that this will enable them afford better cars.
Manyatta B ward representative Nereah Okombo said that they should be given car grants and not loans.
“The grant should be even Sh5 million and not Sh2 million because we are not different from MPs,” Nyalenda A ward representative, Jacktone Onunga said.