Blow to counties as Senate rejects their push for executive residences for their bosses
County governments have been dealt a blow after Senate thwarted their push to revise price ceilings set for county key infrastructure projects.
Senators stood their ground not to review the cost for constructing county executive headquarters’ offices, assembly chambers and offices, and county officers’ residences for governors, their deputies, and speakers.
Lawmakers claim the proposals were arrived after wide consultations and putting into account the need for county governments to develop infrastructure to facilitate the discharge of their functions, while at the same time ensuring prudent use of public resources.
“In setting out the guidelines on expenditure on infrastructural projects in counties, the House was not making a mere perfunctory statement on funds used for infrastructural projects, but carrying out its constitutional duty as the body that oversights the prudent use of resources by counties,” Senator Mohammed Mahamud said in a report.
“While the Senate cannot vary or otherwise affect the rights of contracts to which this is not a party to, the resolution will, however, act as a guide for oversight in future, including the Senate, to determine whether prudent use of public funds was exercised,” Mahamud added.
According to the proposals by the committee, county governments were to customize their prototype designs provided by the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Public Works, and Housing and Urban Development for their respective projects.
According to the estimates infrastructure projects such as county governors and their deputy’s residences were estimated by the Ministry of Public Works to cost Sh 45 million and 35 million respectively.
While the County executive headquarters were estimated to cost Sh 500 million. County Assembly Speakers’ office was costed at Sh 35million.
The project sizes were that they should not exceed more than two acres, and not below a quarter of an acre.
For the assembly chambers, assemblies that had 30 and below Members, up to shs 400million; between 31 and 60 Members, up to Kshs500 million; and, between 61 and 90 Members, Kshs750 million.
The committee also recommended that the counties that had already awarded their tenders should renegotiate the contract with a view to adjusting the contract sum.
Last month, however, some counties have registered their grievances saying they are unable to move and the office of the Controller of Budget is not releasing funds on those projects because it is going by senate guidelines.
On the other hand, the State department of Public Works had requested the Committee on Finance and Budget to give guidance, since some counties have already commenced their projects.
“Some of them are at an advanced stage and their budgets were way above the provided limits,” Major (Rtd) Gordon Kihalang’wa said in his letter to Senate.
The Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) also wrote to the Mandera Senator Mohammed Mahamud led committee asking for give guidance, while at the same time saying that counties should be sticking to the recommendations given by the Senate.
“The Committee is looking at the requests coming from various counties. We have received submissions from West Pokot, Mandera, Kwale, Meru and Marsabit county assemblies,” Senator Mahamud said.
He added: “The county governments are requesting for exemption from the set guidelines concerning various projects,”
According to him, the communication from CRA was informing the Senate about various requests from county governments, which had sought for exemption from the established guidelines on the infrastructure projects.
The letter from CRA further suggests that counties should stick to the recommendations set out in the guidelines.
In his report to the House on Tuesday, the committee held the resolution is setting out guidelines on the scope and estimated cost, which were arrived at after consultation with the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure Housing, Urban Development and Public Works for county governments’ infrastructural projects, with a view to ensuring that there is harmony and uniformity in the provision of these projects.
He reiterated that it is important to note that under Article 174 of the Constitution, one of the objects of devolution is to promote the democratic and accountable exercise of power. This includes prudent management of all resources that have been entrusted to the devolved county governments.
“I think the Senate does not have that mandate to exempt. The Senate is the oversight body and, therefore, we thought that it was not our mandate to exempt or waive entities from resolutions of this House. The entities have the right under the contract, to pursue, terminate and pay the contracts. We are not party to those contracts,” the senator observed.
He concluded: “The resolution that we made was that prudent exercise of funds should be done. In fact, our Report, if any, will be utilized by the oversight authorities so that we can follow up and see whether there was prudent use of funds.”