County budgets in limbo as MCAs suspend sittings to protest withdrawal of allowances

Naivasha East MCA Stanley Karanja (centre) flanked by other MCAs addressing the press at the Nakuru County Assembly on June 6, 2023, after they adjourned the assembly indefinitely in protest over delayed disbursements of cash to counties. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

MCAs have suspended their sittings to protest the withdrawal of their allowances, a move that may affect the making of their 2023/2024 budgets.

The ward representatives have vowed not to resume their sessions until the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) reinstates their sitting allowances.

Association of Members of County Assemblies secretary-general Stanley Karanja said a number of county assemblies have already called off their sittings and more are expected to follow suit.

Mr Karanja, who is also the MCA for Naivasha East, Nakuru County, said ward representatives have been unhappy after SRC slashed their salaries and then scrapped their sitting allowances.

"I’m currently attending a meeting where we will discuss the issues facing members of the county assembly. I want to assure you that those county budgets will not be debated and approved by ward representatives if the SRC fails to address our grievances,” Karanja said.

National government 

MCAs had issued the national government with a 14-day ultimatum to reinstate the allowances, which expired last week.

Ward representatives are key in the county budget-making process. Their role involves debating, amending the budget estimates and approving the budget.

On Thursday, June 15, 2023, it emerged that 23 county assemblies had shut down to push the national government to address their grievances.

The county assembly of Nakuru is among those that have suspended sittings in the fight over salaries and sitting allowances with SRC.

A spot check by the Standard revealed that no sittings have taken place at the assembly since June 6, the day members made the decision to call off their sessions.

MCAs in Narok, Kericho, Laikipia and Samburu counties, in the South Rift region, have also boycotted sittings.

The counties are yet to debate, amend and pass their respective budgets for the coming financial year.

Suspended sittings

Karanja said Mandera, Tana River, Embu, Kisii, Marsabit, Makueni, Wajir, Garissa, Mombasa, Kwale, Kajiado, Nyamira, West Pokot, Vihiga, Kirinyaga, Kilifi, Isiolo and Trans Nzoia have also suspended sittings.

But MCAs in Nyandarua have broken ranks with their association and vowed not to suspend their sittings, with Leader of Majority Mwangi Nyaga saying: "Members have agreed to continue with sittings for the sake of the county and our people."

The assembly is set to table the Sh7.2 billion budget for the next financial year.

"We have agreed that closing down the assembly is not the right way to go about this. Despite the financial crisis, we will continue doing business as we await the money from the national government," said Nyaga, who is also the MCA for the Kaimbaga ward.

He added: “We want the Finance Bill in the national assembly to pass so we can be allocated money."

Nyaga noted that various county assembly committees are going ahead with their businesses.

"As we speak now, we have a committee sitting in Naivasha discussing various issues that we have to pass as the county assembly. We understand that there is no money but we have to spend wisely the little that we have" he said.

Assembly Speaker Wachira Waiganjo confirmed that there was no such motion to adjourn sittings that has been brought to him.

Financial crisis 

"The assembly is running well despite the financial crisis. I have not seen any member bringing a motion to adjourn sittings to my table," he told The Standard.

Kanjuiri MCA Thuo Gachino, who chairs the Lands Committee, said: "For anyone to bring such a motion to the House would be ill-advised. That kind of a motion would mean we bring the work of the county government to a halt. We are working on how to pass the budget so that once the national government gives us money, development projects can continue. The pending bills will also be paid."

He added: "In fact, I am right now chairing the committee. We are even using our own resources so that work can continue."

Some 2,200 MCAs are seeking the establishment of the Ward Development Fund fully anchored in law, at 40 per cent of the county development budget.

Ward representatives are also seeking the setting up of County Affirmative Action Fund for Nominated MCAs.

The MCAs also want SRC compelled to reinstate their plenary allowances in line with other national and legislative assemblies.

They further want the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to be compelled to revoke, revert and refund 30 per cent tax levied on their car reimbursements.

[Additional reporting by James Munyeki]