How rogue MCAs mint cash in 2022 election countdown

Friday, August 6th, 2021 00:00 | By
Chairman of County Assemblies Forum Ndegwa Wahome during a past press briefing. Photo/PD/File

They are entrusted with policing approximately Sh400 billion allocated to the 47 devolved units annually, to ensure prudent expenditure and oversighting top county executives.

But most Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) have turned rogue by turning oversight roles into a money minting scam, as they race against time to bolster their war chests in readiness for 2022.

Some of the MCAs are known to have risen from boda boda riders and hawkers to overnight millionaires and, apparently in a rush to own high end cars, as well as posh homes in their respective villages.

This has cast doubts on their ability to oversight counties with the Auditor General and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), relentlessly exposing massive theft, some perpetrated by the MCAs, who have opened briefcase companies to do business with the counties through dubious tenders.

Reports now indicate that the MCAs have crafted several tricks and avenues to make quick money, including impeachment motions and audit queries which have been turned into extortion baits.

A number of the MCAs apply blackmail to demand cash, which is given in crisps.

In some cases, they are sent to workshops where illegal allowances amounting to millions are paid by departments, while others are awarded tenders in order to be silenced.

Demand kickbacks

Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti, says detectives have been receiving numerous complaints and information about the shoddy dealings in counties ahead of 2022.

“Already we are pursuing several cases involving forgery ,misappropriation of funds, illegal allowances, conflict of interest in tendering and other forms of corruption.

The madness taking place among some of the MCAs is incomprehensible,” Kinoti said.

Cases also abound where governors have accused the MCAs of demanding cash in order to approve appointments and crucial laws.

They reportedly demand kickbacks from contractors undertaking projects in their respective constituencies, in a bid to convince them to go slow on shoddy works.

Some Ward Reps have copied their counterparts in Parliament, who have left the National Assembly and Senate grappling over claims of turning into dens of graft.

There is unanimity among heads of the assemblies, Executive itself as well as pundits that, while devolution provides a good platform to turn around development at the grassroots, MCAs have turned their responsibilities into avenues for profiteering, with sources revealing that in most cases, the trend has been a win-win situation for both the ward chiefs and the Executive, since unscrupulous county officials are also keen to buy silence.

“Sometimes you may see a certain member aggressively pursuing a certain line involving alleged embezzlement of funds in the Executive or non-implementation of projects in their respective wards, but after some time, he or she goes quiet on the matter. 

And when you inquire, you are confronted with allegations that they were compromised to slow down,” said Nyandarua Speaker Wahome Ndegwa-who is also the County Assemblies Forum (CAF) chairman.

For instance, People Daily learnt of a Ward Rep from a county in Central Kenya who, when he chaired the Budget committee, is reported to have demanded a new Toyota Harrier from officials in Finance department, as a condition of him going slow over alleged plunder.

And when the officials declined, he rushed to the media to expose the matter.

“They will source for any audit queries, investigate, and even write reports. They will approach the particular department and negotiate for a price to drop the issue.

Some will demand money or tenders to be silenced, and if you don’t meet their terms, they sustain war against you.

They refuse to pass budget and supplementary budgets until they are paid,” said a Chief Office from a county in Rift Valley; who wished not to be quoted out of fear of attracting reprisal.

For instance, in Nairobi where EACC has launched investigations into the payment of Sh275 million paid to nine companies for undelivered goods and services, the County Assembly Minority Chief Whip Peter Imwatok said the firms in question belong to some MCAs and their proxy companies.

Constitutional lawyer Ndegwa Njiru argues that the problem is because the Executive and the assembly do not enjoy the separation of powers as is the case of the national Executive and Parliament, saying, though distinct, they are established by one Article, 175; which creates county governments.

Impeachment card

“This has denied the assemblies financial autonomy and has reduced MCAs to a gullible and vulnerable lot.

The same has also left the executive exposed to some MCAs who abuse their oversight by turning it into a money milking scam.

That is why you find that whenever governors become hard nuts to crack, MCAs pull the impeachment card,” Ndegwa said.

Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru said the Senate Finance Committee which he chairs, is working on giving the assemblies financial autonomy. Kibiru claims that governors have allegedly been “buying” loyalty from MCAs using handouts and bribes, organising local and foreign treats where hefty allowances are paid.

The Senator claims that some MCAs are even awarded tenders to silence them.

“The Executive has been going to the extent of coercing assemblies in order to compromise them.

One of the ways used has been governors denying county assemblies resources, but as the Finance Committee-we want to amend the Public Finance Management Act so that the assemblies can acquire financial autonomy,” Kibiru said.

Ndegwa who has been at loggerheads with Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia over accountability issues says the electorate should be worried whenever the Executive and the assembly have a good working relationship.

Ndegwa says that in situations where MCAs fight for their space, governors usually result to intimidation and threats, before they sponsor the removal of those in House leadership positions.

Council of Governors (CoG) chair Martin Wambora, who is also the Embu Governor, described the issue of MCAs going rogue as “an interesting subject” but declined to comment further.

Last year Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui accused some MCAs of who were plotting to impeach him, as having reduced themselves to “petty extortionists.”

“Some of these MCAs should distinguish between oversight and extortion. If anybody thinks that in the process of exercising their oversight role, they will use extortion to make certain decisions in the Executive, we are not ready for that,” Kinyanjui said.

Crazy money

Former Nyamira County Assembly Majority Leader Beuttah Omanga lifted the lid on an intricate web of MCAs’ money- minting scams, saying it involves MCAs demanding money from nominees for the County Executive Committee Members (CECM) and Chief Officers post in order to approve them.

“Whenever names of CECM nominees are sent to the county assembly for approval, the MCAs will arm-twist the nominee to part with some cash so that they can approve his name, sometimes looking for grounds to pin them down.

They normally demand crazy money that the nominees even give up. And the corrupt county ministers, knowing how vulnerable the MCAs are, they are always ready to compromise them through kickbacks-hence end up amassing wealth at the expense of service delivery,” he said.

“Before any policy of legislation is done, the MCAs have to retreat for  four to five workshops and training in far areas like Mombasa and Naivasha; which attract huge per-diems and travel costs.

Sometimes the things they deliberate on at the workshops are things that can be discussed in the Chamber,” Omanga said.

In Kiambu County, a contractor undertaking road projects at Githurai in Ruiru wrote a protest letter to the Directorate of Urban and Metropolitan Development when in March 2018, complaining that a group, calling itself business community under the stewardship of two Ward Reps from the county, had demanded a Sh15 million protection fee from him.

Threats and intimidation

The contractor, TRACTORDEN (K) ltd, who is constructing access roads to Githurai Railway Station, through his site agent, Peter Mundia, wrote to Eng Benjamin Njenga, who is the director of Urban and Metropolitan Development seeking his intervention, saying the demand, which was followed by threats and intimidation was made at a meeting allegedly attended by the two elected MCAs.

In another case, on February 25, this year, David Mberia, a Karen MCA in Nairobi was convicted of an offence of receiving a bribe of Sh200, 000 from a businessman in order to favour him in an investigation being conducted by an assembly committee on the ownership of a parcel of land belonging to a school.

In August 2018, EACC charged Parklands MCA Jahendra Malde for allegedly extorting a bribe of Sh5.7 million from the owner of Concord Hotel, Rahim Chatur, to forestall the demolition of the hotel allegedly sitting on a riparian land.

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