Cost-cutting retreat that unlocked county supplementary budget

Monday, December 20th, 2021 07:44 | By
Kisumu County Assembly speaker Elisha Oraro chairs the assembly where the MCAs approved the BBI bill after Siaya County. Photo/PD/Viola Kosome

The mood in our Assembly that afternoon was charged. Members were looking and sounding combative. We had been recalled from our Christmas recess to discuss the supplementary budget.

But this was not the cause of our ire. What lit the fire in our bellies was the discovery the additional funds we had wanted forward development had not been factored in the budget.

“Why are we being treated like this?” thundered MCA Chonjo. “It’s totally unfair!”

“Honourable members, please understand that funds are limited,” pleaded the House Speaker. “We cannot cater for all our needs, so we would appreciate if you pass the supplementary budget as it is.”

“No! Hatupangwingwi!” screeched MCA Violata, leader of the minority. For a moment, chaos reigned in the House. The Speaker watched helplessly as members yelled and cursed. A few were standing on their seats. Others were shaking fists. Violata had raised a shoe above her head, and for a moment, I thought she was going to hurl it at the Speaker.

It was MCA Pinto, leader of the majority, who brought sanity in the House. This is one member who commands respect in the House becuase of his thoughtful contribution. Many are the times he has helped us out of a difficult situation.

“From the look of things,” he said, the Speaker’s hands are tied. The county coffers are almost empty, take it from me.”

We had no reason to disbelieve him. Being the leader of the majority, he obviously had inside information.

“This is unfair. We’re being used as rubber stamps,” protested MCA Matayo. “We can’t be recalled from break only to be treated like this.”

This was met with murmurs which soon graduated to loud protests. Pinto had to struggle to calm down the members once more. He then addressed the Speaker.

“We understand the situation. But I also know there is something left in your kitty. Why don’t you give the members a Christmas treat?” The applause that followed was deafening. “Order! Order, members!” the Speaker shouted, now looking more confident.

“I have listened to MCA Pinto, and if a Christmas treat is what it will take to have you pass the supplementary budget, you will get it.” An ear-splitting applause ensued.

“Order, members! Now listen. This treat can only be in form of a trip or a retreat. And the purpose of the retreat must be acceptable.” The mood in the House had now changed drastically. Smiles and giggles reigned supreme.

“Mr Speaker, if MCAs from another county could go for a retreat to a foreign country to be taught courtesy, why don’t we do the same?” suggested Chonjo. “Most people here have no courtesy at all.” This led to jeering and the MCA was forced to withdraw it. Pinto was on his feet, again.

“Colleagues, we don’t need to copy what other MCAs do. We can do better. I have a suggestion,” he said amid a breathless silence.

“Now that we won’t get the ward development funds as we wished, we will have to cut down on some costs. Why don’t we go for a retreat to brainstorm on cost-cutting measures?”

This was unanimously supported, and loudly so. The speaker said he had no problem with that as long as the retreat was to take a week only, and not outside Africa.

“Mr Speaker, you have hit the head on the nail (sic). You are our hero,” declared Chonjo as a debate then ensued on which country to visit—some preferred West African countries while others wanted South Africa before settling for Zanzibar during the week after Christmas.

“Mr Speaker, I have a request,” said MCA Chonjo. “There are those among us who may not wish to travel to Zanzibar. Why can’t we be given our money, both the daily allowances and fare?”

This gave rise to another round of debate. Quite a number of us agreed with the suggestion. However, the Speaker was categorical it was unacceptable. “It will be awkward for a member to be seen around when we will have publicly announced we are away on a retreat. It will raise integrity issues.”

That settled the matter. Needless to say, after we agreed on the daily allowances each of us would get, we passed the supplementary budget unaltered. Ni kujipanga.

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