Kericho assembly to resume sessions amid house leadership wrangles

Kericho County Assembly premises in this photo taken on November 11, 2022.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Kericho County Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday after a three-week break against the backdrop of leadership wrangles threatening to derail business in the House.

House committees are also expected to table reports on the vetting of 12 nominees for chief officer that was concluded last week.

The leadership spat pits Majority Leader Paul Chirchir against the former holder of that office, Vincent Korir, who was ousted from the position while on a trip to Egypt, where he attended the UN climate change conference with Governor Erick Mutai.

Mr Korir still lays claim to the position, saying he was kicked out without due process being followed.

Dr Patrick Mutai, the assembly Speaker, allowed the changes to be adopted by members after the outcome of a vote allegedly conducted by some members of the county assembly (MCAs) with the majority of them in attendance.

It shines the spotlight on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, with secretary-general and nominated Senator Veronica Maina disowning the changes through a letter authored on November 14.

“It is paramount to state that on November 9, 2022 UDA did not give guidance nor submit any formal proposals of names or changes to the leadership of Kericho County,” Ms Maina stated in the letter to the Speaker

Ms Maina’s response arose from a letter of inquiry to the UDA headquarters by Kapchebor MCA Wesley Bett dated November 10, seeking to find out the validity of the changes.

She stood by the elections said to have been conducted on September 22 during a consultative meeting in Kisumu to pick leaders of committees where Mr Korir was picked as majority leader in the House whose members are predominantly sponsored by UDA.

“In the circumstances, kindly, but urgently be notified that any changes in the assembly leadership, purportedly on the basis of a communication from the party, [is] false, inaccurate and in violation of the UDA constitution,” Ms Maina said in the letter.

But Mr Korir said the changes were null and void and his position had been vindicated by UDA’s letter clarifying the changes.

“We will go by the letter from the party, which has clarified who the majority leader at the assembly is, that I am the one in charge. I have no intention of letting go of the position,” Mr Korir said after returning from Egypt.

Mr Chirchir, on the other hand, said the changes were final as the MCAs have a right to pick leaders of their choice without any undue external pressure.

"As far as I am concerned, the decision was made by the MCAs [and] the changes relayed to the Speaker, who made a communication from the chair, which was adopted," Mr Chirchir said.

He added: "Unless another communication is made, which we do not expect, I am the leader of majority in the assembly."

The assembly has 47 members – 30 elected and 17 nominated. They come from Ainamoi, Belgut, Bureti, Soin Sigowet, Kipkelion East and Kipkelion West.

Chaik MCA Mathew Korir said the changes were procedurally made in the assembly and should not be changed as it was the will of the majority of MCAs.

“This is a matter that was decided by the members for the sake of proper representation in the House as the former office holder lacked the charisma to represent members. It is an internal matter that is an open and shut case,” Mr Korir said when news of the changes emerged.

The governor, Speaker Mutai and Deputy Speaker Erick Bett held a meeting at the county headquarters with Chesingoro MCA Anita Biegon, Mr Cheruiyot Bett (Ainamoi) Mr Gilbert Ngetich (Kisiara) and Mr Hezron Ngetich (Chilchila) three weeks ago in what was seen as an effort to cool rising political temperatures.

“The county executive and the county assembly shall work together in discharging their mandate to the great people of Kericho, even as we forge a unity of purpose amongst the leaders,” Governor Mutai wrote on his social media pages after the meeting.

He added: “We will provide the Assembly with the support they require to execute their legislative oversight and representation role.”

MCAs are expected to table for discussion, rejection or adoption the reports from committees on the suitability of 12 nominees for chief officer.

The legislators vetted the nominees last week, after a controversial training they attended in Nakuru that cost Kericho about Sh3 million. The MCAs were trained at a high-end hotel in Nakuru on how to vet chief officers.

The training was to be held at Weston hotel in Nairobi that is owned by President William Ruto, but the venue was changed to Nakuru following a public uproar.

Residents and the public were incensed that MCAs were going against austerity measures set by the President to cut Sh300 billion from the 2022/2023 budget he inherited from former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

Dr Ruto said the reduction would return the government to financial discipline, with most of the allocation having been itemised for recurrent expenditure, travel, accommodation and hospitality.

The names of the nominees for chief officer were forwarded to the assembly by the governor a month ago, following interviews conducted by the County Public Service Board as required by law.

The board shortlisted candidates, interviewed them and forwarded a list of the successful ones (those who attained high scores) to the governor, who in turn transmitted it to the assembly for vetting before appointment.

The 12 nominees include Ms Rosemary Chelangat (Finance), Mr David Kurgat Kiplangat (Economic Planning), Mr Willy Rop Kiprono (Agriculture), Mr Michael Bett Kiprotich (Livestock and Cooperatives Management), Mr Wesley Koech (Water, Environment, Energy, Forestry, and Natural Resources), Mr Japeth Cheruiyot (Health Services) and Mr Richard Tonui Kibet (Education, Culture, Libraries and Social Services).

The others are Mr Geoffrey Kipngeno Bett (Information, Communication, and E-Government, Youth Affairs, Gender and Sports), Mr Alphonse Rotich Kipkirui (Land, Housing and Physical Planning), Mr Anderson Terer Cheruiyot (Public Works, Road and Transport), Ms Betsy Chebet (Public Service Management) and Mr Gilbert Kipkirui Bii (Trade, Trade, Industrialisation, Innovation, Tourism and Wildlife).

Two nominees for the County Executive Committee (CEC) – Mr Lawrence Kipkoech Bii (Education, Culture, Libraries and Social Services) and Mr Bernard Bii (Trade, Industrialisation, Innovation and Tourism) – were rejected by MCAs on claims that they were inexperienced.