COUNTY POLITICS: ‘Rubber stamp’ tag haunts Kiambu MCAs


Elected leaders cast doubt on County Assembly’s effectiveness in carrying out oversight role on Executive.

Since its inception in 2013, the Kiambu County Assembly’s biggest challenge has been to keep the Executive in check.

Elected leaders, among them members of the assembly themselves, have cast doubt on the 87-member House’s effectiveness in carrying out its oversight role on the Executive, arguing that it has proved incapable of discharging this and its legislative roles independently.

The assembly has been accused of allowing itself to be used as a rubber stamp by the Executive.

Often, the House has, from most of its actions, appeared to favour the county government at the expense of the electorate.

Among the notable actions was the approval of the Finance Bill in 2013, despite objections by the electorate. This culminated in mass protests by traders before it was nullified by the court.

The assembly then approved two controversial Finance Acts that increased trading fees and levies and a Supplementary Budget that allowed the purchase of tens of Land Rovers, which most residents were opposed to.

Though the leadership of the House has come to its defence, some Members of County Assembly (MCAs) concur that they no longer play the role of oversight, but act as an appendage of the Executive.

Despite being one of the county assemblies with the largest number of members, on several occasions it has had to adjourn sessions due to lack of quorum.

The House has 60 elected and 27 nominated members, including 25 women picked to meet the two thirds gender rule, and two men who represent interests of the youth and the disabled.

Ngewa Ward Representative Karungo wa Thang’wa said the assembly has performed poorly, and members have betrayed the electorate, especially on matters of public interest.

The former broadcaster, one of the best performing MCAs for his stand on issues affecting the public, said instead of playing their oversight role diligently, MCAs use their positions to defend the executive, rubbish reports and tell off those calling for accountability.

Members normally query the Executive through House committees as part of oversight.

“The committees have powers to summon county officials to get satisfactory information but ours operate like vessels for the Executive instead of investigating to bring out the mess that occur in the Executive,” he said.

Members have also been accused of turning impeachment motions and government agendas into cash cows by soliciting bribes to support those implicated, or to vote in their favour.

For instance, during a motion to impeach Finance Executive Mary Nguli in 2014, some members allegedly drafted motions with a view to extorting and intimidating officials from the Executive.

The House approved her impeachment but to the shock of the Assembly, a House committee picked to interrogate the allegations exonerated her.

Deputy Speaker Anthony Macharia said such incidents, popularly referred to as vipindi (TV programmes) by MCAs, should never be allowed to find their way into the House.

This year, members of a sectoral committee scuttled attempts to question the executive for Youth and Sports, Mr Machel Waikenda and chief officer Marie Mugo over misappropriation of funds.

The two had appeared before the Youth and Sports Affairs Committee after a report accused the department of disbursing the Sh300 million Biashara Fund unequally among the wards, and also saving the money in a fixed account to reap the earned interest.

But the same committee that was supposed to question the two surprisingly halted the exercise on the basis that the matter was sensitive and that the media was not supposed to cover the sessions.

Karuri Ward Representative Martin Njoroge who is also the Minority Chief Whip said the House has never been independent when carrying out its mandate.

Most of the members, he said, dance to the tune of the Executive and hardly do popular motions carry the day.

 “We have had situations where a good number support an agenda that will go well with Wanjiku but later change positions,” said Mr Njoroge.

But Mang’u Ward Representative Kimani Gachihi, who is also a member of the Speaker’s panel, defended the House, saying it had done well.

Apart from the annual Appropriation Acts, the House has so far approved the Kiambu County Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2013, County Health Services Act, 2014 and others are in various stages, he said.

He said that the House has also passed dozens of motions which the county government has been slow to implement.

“If none of our approved motions are implemented, none of Wanjiku’s agendas go through apart from those favouring the executive. How then can we say we are working for the people who voted for us?” asked Limuru Central MCA Njenga Murugami, who has successfully moved a number of motions.

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