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Blow to Budget committee as MPs share Sh3 billion ‘pie’

POLITICS
By MOSES NJAGIH and ALLAN KISIA | March 13th 2015

NAIROBI: The National Assembly snatched the contentious Sh3 billion that members of the Budget and Appropriations Committee had allocated to public hearings and reallocated it to areas where all MPs stand to benefit.

The Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), which looks after the welfare of legislators, and the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) received two-thirds of the amount.

The 51-member committee led by Mutava Musyimi had in their Budget Policy Statement allocated the Sh3 billion to public hearings to be conducted by the Budget team, but this drew strong opposition from members.

On Wednesday, Speaker Justin Muturi stopped debate on the policy statement to urge the committee to listen to queries raised by the MPs over the Planned Publication allocation. When the committee’s chairman Mutava Musyimi opened debate on the policy statement Thursday, he revealed that they had bowed to pressure from MPs and reallocated the funds.

The PSC, chaired by Muturi in his capacity as National Assembly Speaker, was granted an extra Sh1 billion and CDF Sh1.038 billion, taking the lion’s share of the contested vote.

The MPs increased the vote for the Judiciary by Sh500 million, the Auditor General Sh250 million and the Independent Police Oversight Authority Sh112 million.

But in a drastic move, the MPs slashed the non-salary vote for the Sarah Serem-led Salaries and Remuneration Commission from Sh476 million to Sh219.4 million by adopting an amendment by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi that had earlier been rejected by the budget committee.

Mr Wamunyinyi said he only targeted votes from the commission that he felt “in the interest of cutting expenditure they did not deserve to be given the monies”.

“I look at a vote by the name ‘Other Operating expenses’ under which the commission is given Sh94 million for consultancy services and in my knowledge, these are experts who do not require to consult,” he said.

REDUCE WASTAGE

Majority Leader Aden Duale, who surprisingly seconded the amendment, said the House must help the commission focus its core target of cutting public wastage.

“That commission is part time. They should lead by example in dealing with wastage. With our duty being to ensure that public wastage is contained, it gives us a moral ground to also reduce wastage in their commission,” said Duale, amid cheers from legislators.

During the meeting, earlier in the day, some MPs proposed that the Sh3 billion be redirected to the CDF, but it was opposed on grounds that it would make MPs look selfish.

Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura agreed that CDF has contributed to development but said the Sh3 billion would not make an impact when shared by the constituencies.

“When shared, the money will be too little to do certain projects in the constituencies,” he said.

While presenting the policy statement to the House for approval, committee chairperson Mutava Musyimi said members agreed to reallocate the Sh3 billion to other Government institutions.

“You can see clearly that we have favoured oversight institutions. We have a huge task of fighting corruption in our country. We therefore must support oversight institutions, starting with Parliament,” said Mutava.

Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau backed Musyimi saying oversight institutions need more funds.

But Musyimi said that the committee still has a constitutional obligation to conduct public hearings.

“We have to do public hearings in a professional way even with little resources,” he stated.

MPs had accused 51 of their colleagues, who serve in the Budget and Appropriations Committee, of secretly sharing out Sh3 billion for projects within their respective constituencies.

The lawmakers said their colleagues were each looking at Sh60 million for their constituencies.

Thursday, Musyimi also announced the budget ceilings for the various Government institutions. He said the budget ceiling for the Judicial Service Commission was Sh18 billion and Sh28 billion for the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Senate was also a beneficiary of this year’s allocation, as they were granted Sh1 billion for their oversight duties in counties.

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said he would be introducing more amendments to the budget policy to cut the ceilings for the Charles Nyachae-led Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, arguing that its term is ending and thus they should not be given more money.

“When we were in Mombasare recently, we agreed that we are not going to give Nyachae an extension of his term. Our own Committee on Implementation of the Constitution has indicated that they can undertake the remaining work,” he said.

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