There are a lot of quibbles regarding how much Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) have been spending over the years. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) clearly stipulates that the average sitting allowance an MCA should get is 80,000 shillings, but that hasn’t been the case.
A report released by Controller of Budget (COB) Agnes Odhiambo for the first quarter of the 2018/2019 financial year revealed that many MCAs across various counties increased their expenditure on trips and allowances.
According to the report, County Assemblies spent a total of 423.31 million shillings on MCAs committee sitting allowances against an approved budget allocation of 2.87 billion shillings.
In translation, the amount equals 14.8 percent of the approved MCAs committee sitting allowance budget. The amount also depicted a significant increase from 5 percent attained in financial year 2017/18 when 152.39 million shillings was incurred.
The increase reveals probable misappropriation of funds. For instance, against the recommended amount an MCA should get, 14 counties surpassed the maximum monthly payment.
Migori leads the pack with an allowance of 121,026 shillings per MCA followed by Kwale, Siaya, Kakamega, and Bungoma that paid at least 20,000 shillings more than the maximum limit. These counties spent 108,668, 107,969, 102,136, and 101,862 shillings on sitting allowance per MCA respectively.
Whereas Busia paid 98,793 shillings for each member, Nyandarua paid 97,867 shillings. Kisii, on the other hand, paid each MCA a monthly average of 95,718 shillings.
Other counties that paid their member’s committee sitting allowances exceeding the allowed limit includes Makueni’s (94,797), Mombasa (90,026), Nyeri (89,594), Kiambu (89,078), Elgeyo Marakwet (86,603) and Nairobi City which gave each member 82, 736 shillings.
Although Nairobi – which recorded the highest Expenditure on Committee Sitting Allowances of the 47 counties with an expenditure of 31.77 million shillings – raises some eyebrows, it hasn’t overshadowed possible misuse of funds in other counties as well.
The whole MCA sitting allowance issue seems to be a fickle business. If anything, the above 14 counties make one question how the allocation is done in relation to the number of MCAs.
The CoB report, which has a table (shown below) showing the number of MCAs in each County Assembly and the monthly average that was paid to each member, shows that there are MCAs who earned less or more than the average.
True, one will argue that it is dependent on the total expenditure, that from the total budget allocation, some funds remain. There are fears that the remaining funds, which are set aside for other purposes, are pocketed by some individuals.
The table reveals that some of the counties that paid their MCAs the lowest amount include Kajiado, where each member got an average of 7,024 shillings, Meru with 2,800 shillings each, Garissa with 2,438 shillings, and Baringo that spent 236,000 shillings to pay its 46 MCAs an average of 1,710 shillings a month.
There are important questions that are not being asked. For instance, how did Baringo MCAs manage to spend only 1,710 shillings per month? And why did Migori MCAs consume more than 120,000 shillings in a sitting?
Also, how does the number of MCAS in a particular county correspond to the allocated amount? For instance, Kisumu, Makueni, and Mandera have the same number of MCAs; 46, yet their budgetary allocations are different.
Kisumu had an allocation of 55,106,000 shillings, whereas Makueni and Mandera each had 76,606, 000, and 41,760,000 shillings respectively. So, why does the allocation not correspond with the number of MCAs?
Thing is, these recurrent expenditures consume much more than what a county would eventually spend for development purposes. In some instance, it is notable that some counties spend a lot on MCA allowances but very little on developmental projects.
Counties, as it would seem, are playing an ugly game of distortion as they continue to lie on what they have achieved for those they represent. One fact remains clear, reducing the number of funds spent on sitting allowances and travel in Kenya could release significant amounts of money for education and health services in the country.
The country’s health sector is suffering greatly. There is a dire need for ICU beds in hospitals across the country. If the government picked one exemplary county that pays the MCAs the required amount of sitting allowance, lots of funds could be freed for several other sectors.
Harmonizing budgetary allocation for these types of allowances depending on the number of MCAs as well as being strict in analyzing and finding out where and what the remaining funds are used for is another way of utilizing the money appropriately.
Failure to do so, the usual song of “a lot of money is spent on salaries and not development” will perpetually carry on until serious changes are made. Being casual about the issue would be the first step for failure. The very thing dictates the survival of Kenya as a state.
Close scrutiny of the county assemblies clearly reveals how MCAs are paid for work not done. In some counties, for example, there are reports that MCAs only appear at the assembly for a few minutes then leave whereas others do not make it to the county assembly.
Why do these individuals get the sitting allowance if they never make it to a place where they are supposed to deliberate on important matters affecting the ordinary citizens?
Ironically, they go to court and win on allowance increments and are not held accountable for wasting funds. Remember the MCAs who spent 5.8 billion shillings on a waste management trip?
Kenya is an interesting country, and apparently, the best paying job is being a politician. You sit at the top of the pyramid while those below you struggle for crumbs.