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From dining hall to chambers: MCAs’ long walk to new offices

A section of the Sh60 million newly constructed Bomet County Assembly Chambers that is set to be in used when MCAs resume from their Christmas break. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

Anyone visiting Bomet County Assembly for the first time would be forgiven for thinking they have strayed into a school.

The county’s ward representatives have been conducting business in old buildings dating back to 1953 that were meant for a technical institute that would later be transformed into a secondary school.

St Michael Secondary School was displaced in 1993 to create room for the defunct Bomet municipal council.

Former Mayor Livingstone Kombich said they relocated the school to house councillors after Bomet district was created.

Good shape

“At the time we took over the premises, the buildings were in good shape, so we decided to convert them into offices and councillors’ chamber,” said Kombich.

With devolution in 2013, the county assembly inherited the buildings and converted the former dining hall into a debating chamber.

It is here that laws governing the county have been formulated, debated and passed over the past eight years.

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The former St Michael Secondary School kitchen was turned into the Speaker’s office, while the students’ service area was converted into the clerk’s office.

One of the dormitories was converted into assembly staff offices, while the school staff room was turned into a committee room.

The classrooms were converted into offices for the Majority and Minority leaders.

“The Speaker operates from the then kitchen and the clerk serves from the service area,” said Bomet County Assembly Speaker Nelson Mutai.

However, the use of these old buildings is coming to an end, with members set to move to newly constructed chambers – which cost Sh60 million to put up – from today.

Assembly Clerk Isaac Kitur said the new chamber would make the assembly more effective in its operations, adding that it had features the old offices could not accommodate.

“The new chamber has media and public galleries, which we previously did not have and I’m sure this will allow the public to participate in our proceedings and help members improve their performance,” he said.

Kitur said the chamber has been designed to be friendly for cameras and sound systems.

“It is comfortable for members and is designed as a debating chamber, unlike the old chamber which was a hall and members could hardly be heard because of echoes,” said the clerk.

He said the chamber, once fully completed, would also house committee rooms and offices for MCAs.

“Previously our members operated from their cars, but from June once we complete the entire block, every MCA will attend to their constituents from his office,” he said

The new chamber has also been fitted with washrooms.

“MCAs have been using a pit latrine that was previously used by students when it was a secondary school, but now we have modern facilities,” Kitur added.

Another key highlight of the new offices is they have improved access for people with mobility challenges.

“Persons with disabilities can access the offices with a lot of ease,” he said.

Construction of the assembly chamber had been delayed for eight years due to budget constraints.

“Lack of funds delayed the construction works for the last seven years, but we are happy that it is now complete,” Kitur said.

Members of the first county assembly engaged the executive in a row over development funds to the assembly after former governor Isaac Ruto refused to approve funds for the construction.

The delays

Former Kembu MCA Julius Korir blamed the delay on the former county administration.

“The transition authority had allocated the assembly Sh110 million, but it was diverted to other uses on grounds that development at the assembly was not a priority,” said Korir.

He said for five years they were forced to operate from a building that had been condemned.

The assembly leadership, he added, did not give up despite the onslaught from the executive. Governor Hillary Barchok has been lauded for giving MCAs autonomy on the development budget.

The clerk said ward representatives returning from their Christmas recess would hold their first sitting in the new chamber.

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