Ministries petition Cabinet over Sh2.6 billion payment for ex-councilors

When former councilors appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Labour led by chair Senator Julius Murgo on March 16, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standar]

The National Treasury and the Ministry of Labour have drawn a Cabinet memorandum for transmission to the Cabinet for one off payment of Sh2.6 billion honorarium to more than 12,000 councillors who served the country between 1963 and 2013.

The National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u and his Labour counterpart Florence Bore appeared before the Senate Labour and Social Welfare Committee to explain the status of the Sh200,000 honorarium to the former councillors pursuant to the recommendation of the committee.

Prof Ndung'u said that recommendation on implementation of the Senate resolution to pay the former councilors happened during the subsistence of the last Cabinet and it was imperative that the current Cabinet is appraised of the matter and be requested to approve the resultant financial commitment.

“Accordingly the National Treasury jointly with the Ministry of Labour have drawn a Cabinet memorandum for transmittal to the Cabinet, subject to the decision of the Cabinet, the National Treasury will factor the payment estimated at Sh 2.6 billion in the 2023/2024 financial year budget,” he said.

The Treasury CS told the committee chaired by Julius Murgor (West Pokot Senator) that the payment comprised of Sh2.3 billion being gratuity payment for 11,919 former councillors who served less than four continuous terms and Sh218 million for 328 councillors who served for four or more continuous terms.

Prof Ndungu said that the government would consider enrolling the councillors and their spouses for National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the two ministries in consultation with relevant stakeholders will facilitate discussions on the proposal for inclusion of the former councillors in the universal health coverage under the purview of NHIF.

Bore told the committee that former councillors who are over 70 years are eligible for enrollment into the Inua Jamii Cash Transfer programme but the available resources are not adequate to register any additional person to the programme at the moment.

“Should resources be allocated to the programme, the enrollment process will be announced, therefore eligible former councillors will be invited to avail themselves for registration, this programe is meant for people not benefiting from any other government safety net programmes,” she said.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo was moved to tears when he was shown photos of a former councilor dressed smartly while in office and a recent one showing him living in abject poverty after his family deserted him for failing to cater for their basic needs.

Madzayo said that his uncle who is a former councilor was living in abject poverty and promised to ensure that the government dispenses with the matter which has remained unresolved since 2013.

“I have listened to the presentation made by the representatives of the 12,000 former councilors and I feel that they were addressing me directly. It is our duty to ensure that they get Sh 200,000 each as appreciation for their services to the nation,” he said.

Former Councillors Forum National Chairperson Geoffrey Gitau told the committee that so far 4,000 members have passed away without benefiting from the fund and they will ensure their next of kin get their share.

Gitau noted that the former councilors had initially sought Sh1.2 million honorarium each which cumulatively could have been Sh14.4 billion which he said was not much to ask from the government and Kenyans that they had served diligently for years.

He said that a taskforce formed to look into their welfare recommended that they be paid Sh550,000 each before the National Treasury slashed it further to Sh200,000 which they have not received to date.

“Most councillors served at a time there was no Constituency Development Fund or counties therefore the little money they got went to fundraisers for various programmes in their areas leaving them with nothing for their respective families. Kindly help us get this honorarium,” said Gitau.

Former Councillors National Forum Vice Chairperson William Komen regretted that the Jubilee government dillydallied in paying them their dues and it is unfortunate that many of them have died without benefiting and they hope this issue will be dealt with once and for all.

Komen said that they met President William Ruto when he served as the Deputy President and he is aware of their plight and urged him to order the National Treasury to surrender the payment due to them.

He noted that this year alone 30 former councilors have died across the country.

Komen said they have visited their colleagues in 41 counties and most of them live in horrible conditions.

“We pray that our government will consider this matter as urgent since it is not fair for us to becoming to Nairobi every now and then to pursue a matter which only requires the commitment of the National Treasury to dispense with, we ask the President to intervene,” he said.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said that the Senate will pursue the matter to ensure that the senior citizens were accorded the respect they deserve and assured them that this will be the last time they are traveling to Nairobi to seek for funds approved many years ago.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua had sought a statement on the status of implementation of the payments by the Treasury as resolved by the Senate on October 18, 2018, following recommendations of the Standing Committee on Labour and Social Welfare on a Petition by former councillors on the one-off token of Sh200,000 each.

Wambua wanted to know whether the government would consider enrolling the former councillors and their spouses for NHIF to benefit from treatment in their respective county hospitals.

At independence former councilors earned Sh60, in 1983 they were earning Sh1,200, in 2012 they were earning Sh25,000 despite the heavy financial needs of the people they represented.