Kisumu county assembly on the spot over unused space rent

Onyango Oloo in the dock at a Milimani court. [George Njunge/Standard]

The County Assembly is on the spot for spending millions of taxpayers’ money to pay rent for a commercial building it has not used for over a year.

The assembly leadership has been paying about Sh1.2 million monthly for three floors and parking slots from July 1, 2018, and still owes the landlord about Sh13 million as at June 10.

Investigations by The Standard established 40 executive chairs, 40 tables as well as some 40 drawers purchased at a cost of about Sh4 million are lying idle at the building.

The development came as the landlord threatened to take legal action against the County Assembly for failing to settle rent arrears.

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Documents seen by The Standard, including letters written to the assembly clerk, indicate that the County Assembly was to pay an initial monthly rent of Sh827,733 for 13,650 square feet. The amount was, however, estimated to increase to Sh912,706 by July 1, 2019.

The leadership of impeached Speaker Onyango Oloo had planned to relocate offices to the rented premises and had already secured a budgetary allocation for rent. The plans have, however, stalled.

Yesterday, assembly officials engaged in blame games over the decision to rent premises at the building in the Central Business District.

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While the current leadership is blaming Oloo for the contract and failure to offset the debt, impeached speaker claims the decision to move to the rented premise was approved by MCAs to pave way for renovation of the current premises.

Oloo said the reason the assembly was not able to move to the offices was because budgetary allocations for partitioning and equipping the premises had not been made.

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“We have been paying them Sh1.2 million monthly and we had paid them up to April, this year. We only bought chairs and tables in June, this year, and the ward reps are the ones who approved the budget,” said Oloo.

He said said that only arrears for three months had not been settled and blamed it on the delays in the release of funds from the Treasury.

A number of MCAs, however, accused Oloo of plunging the County Assembly into debt with Budget chairperson Steve Owiti claiming that money for offsetting rent was allocated in the budget of the 2018/2019 financial year.

Acting Speaker Elisha Oraro said the decision to rent premises was ill-advised.

He said the County Assebly leadership have already engaged legal experts to study the contract the former leadership entered with the proprietors of the building.

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“It is true we have already received a demand notice to offset our rent balance but we are still studying the contract because all along we were opposed to moving offices, “said Oraro.

He claimed that the landlord has threatened to auction the equipment that have been lying idle at the premises, adding that he has already sought for 14 more days from the landlord to respond to their demands for pay. He said the issue will be tabled before the House for MCAs to decide.

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Onyango OlooMilimani courtThe Standard