Samboja threatens to suspend county after difference with MCAs

Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja when he appeared before the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee. He wants to suspend the county over a tiff with MCAs. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
When he fought so hard not to return to the ballot over fake academic papers claims, few thought he would petition to return himself and his entire county leadership to the electorate.

Taita Taveta governor Granton Samboja now says he will collect signatures to petition President Uhuru Kenyatta to suspend the county with four constituencies and 20 wards.

He assured supporters that he had the backing of Senator Johnes Mwaruma, MPs Danson Mwashako (Wundanyi), Andrew Mwadime (Mwatate) and Jones Mlolwa (Voi).

Mr Samboja, who has minority support in the assembly, claims he wants fresh elections to solve a problem with Ward Reps over some allocations in the 2019/20 budget.

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He rejected the budget that was approved by the assembly last week, saying the reps had “illegally allocated themselves a development fund worth billions of shillings”. The reps conversely said he did so because they reduced dubious amounts set for the Executive.

In their resolution, the MCAs phased out foreign travels, reduced the casual labourers allocation, moves that would now force the Executive to reduce non-permanent staff.

Addressing the supporters outside his office in Wundanyi town, the governor set the ball rolling and launched the collection of signatures to dissolve the county administration over the standoff in the 2019/20 budget estimates.

He said the county had flouted the budget timelines, adversely affecting operation because of “chest thumping and propaganda of MCAs.”

“I have today started collecting signatures for the dissolution of the county government to pave way for fresh elections,” he said. “I am only looking for 18,000 signatures for my course.”

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And as the governor was calling for the dissolution of his administration, 33 MCAs held a separate Press conference at the assembly, where they declared that they were ready for the dissolution.

Speaker Meshack Maganga, his deputy Chrispus Tondoo, Majority Leader Jason Tuja and Assembly Clerk Gadiel Maganga exonerated the assembly from the staggering standoff.

The MCAs claimed they had earlier invited the governor to find a truce over the budget, but he snubbed them. Mr Maganga said they met all County Executive Committee (CEC) members and forged a truce on the controversial budget estimates.

“We made adequate consultations on the budget estimates but the governor failed us. He (Samboja) has been a major stumbling block in the budget making process,” Maganga said, adding: “We met every stakeholder, including the county treasury, before making an informed decision.”

Tuja said whatever was passed by the assembly was what was agreed upon by the assembly and the Executive.

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The Werugha Ward rep accused the governor of misleading the electorate. “The governor should reason with the assembly instead of maligning it,” said Tondoo.

As at yesterday, the MCAs and the governor continued to read from different scripts over the 2019/20 budget estimates, with the locals left hanging.

According to some residents, the standoff between the two arms of government could badly affect implementation of development projects and service delivery.

The governor has also claimed that the MCAs had a plot to impeach him and the entire Executive.

His government issued a statement reiterating his claim that he declined to assent to the budget after MCAs allocated themselves some Sh832 million for ward development.

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The statement claimed awarding the fund would have crippled the county’s finances and “violated the Constitution by enabling MCAs’ execute projects while also purporting to offer oversight.”

According to the statement, the county’s total revenue for 2019/20 fiscal year is Sh5.4 billion, and includes Sh4.1 billion from the National Treasury, Sh320 million from local revenues and conditional grants of Sh734,315,201 besides a balance from the 2018/19 fiscal year amounting to Sh215,837,760.

“Out of the Sh5.4 billion, Sh3.6 billion is for recurrent expenditure while Sh1.8bn is for development,” read the statement that also indicated that the county assembly had a Sh611 million budget, with Sh544 million meant for recurrent expenditure and Sh67 million for development.

Priority areas

The former media owner argued that he wanted to put Taita Taveta monies in priority areas like health services, food security, infrastructure and paying pending bills worth Sh400 million.

“With the need to provide for a budgetary provision for pending bills and the other County government priority projects, the above recommendation for allocation of Sh41,650,000 for each of the 20 wards will not be tenable,” he said.

In this financial year, the total revenue estimates of the county administration for the next financial year amounts to Sh5.5 billion, comprising Sh4.2 billion from national equitable share, Sh320 million from local revenue and Sh734 million grant.

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Granton SambojaSenator Johnes MwarumaDanson MwashakoAndrew MwadimeJones MlolwaWard Reps