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Why speaker's position in county assemblies is highly sought-after

Pamela Arwa Ojala takes the oath of office at the County Assembly of Mombasa on September 23, 2022. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

A majority of county assemblies elected speakers last week.

The positions fell vacant with the expiry of the term of the second county assemblies last month.

Nakuru and Kisii are among the counties that had the highest number of candidates, 13 and 14 respectively. Several candidates were disqualified.

Although a majority of the candidates seeking the position are lawyers, law is not one of the requirements.

Legally, a candidate for speaker has to meet the qualifications to be elected Member of the County Assembly (MCA).

The post of Speaker of the County Assembly comes with attractive perks, privileges and powers written and unwritten in law.

The attractiveness of this job is evident by the number of former MPs vying for the post.

Although the salary of a speaker is lower than that of an MP, the six-figure pay is no mean achivement.

According to a July Gazette Notice by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), speakers of the county assemblies will take home Sh525,525 as gross salary.

Their deputies earn a gross salary of Sh216,563 while Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs) pocket Sh144,375.

The speakers are entitled to Sh80,000 house allowance which may be substituted with an official residence provided by the county governments with commensurate home utilities and house attendants.

Most counties are however yet to complete speakers’ residences. Nakuru is one such county. It is building the speaker’s residence in the posh Milimani Estate.

The SRC also stated that the Speakers be provided with an official vehicle whose engine capacity does not exceed 2000cc. The inspector general is also to provide them with security.

They are entitled to annual medical covers of up to Sh3 million if admitted, Sh200,000 for outpatient, Sh100,000 for maternity, Sh50,000 for dental care, and a similar amount for optical services.

“The annual medical covers cater for the speaker, one spouse and up to four children below 25 years and fully dependent on the state officer,” the SRC stated in the Gazette Notice.

The speakers are also entitled mortgage facility of up to Sh20 million and a car loan of Sh4 million recoverable from their earnings by the county public service board.

Apart from the perks, the speaker who is an ex officio member is bestowed with the duty to chair the County Assembly Service Board which places them in a position of power and influence.

“The board is responsible for providing services and facilities, constituting county assembly offices, supervising office bearers and preparing budget estimates for the county assembly,” the County Governments Act 2012 states in part.

Peter Mbae, a leadership and governance expert, says that the speaker also enjoys more powers over other members, noting that the seat should be rated alongside the top county positions.

“The seat is a powerful one. By law, they rank with the governors, deputy governors and senators. That is why they are third in powers in the leadership of a county,” said Dr Mbae.

He pointed out that the speaker also chairs powerful committees whose sittings are also handsomely rewarded in allowances.

“Most of these committees run the affairs of the county assembly,” said Mbae.