The Murang’a business community has protested a proposal to contribute money to fund end-of-year parties for security officers with an estimated budget of Sh7.2 million.
According to letters from deputy county commissioners, the parties are scheduled for December 3-15.
The county has 35 wards with a party in each expected to cost Sh156,000. But this cost is higher in Murang'a, Maragua, Kangari, Kenol, Kiria-ini, Kangema and parts of Gatanga where an additional Sh1,740,000 will be raised to hit the Sh7.2 million budget.
The menu for officers features alcoholic and soft drinks, beef stew, chapati, rice and ugali, as well as greens and mineral water.
Also included in the budget is the cost of trainers and facilitation, tents, chairs and décor, hiring of grounds, public address systems and others, activities that the national government funds for its various departments.
While the administrators say contributions are voluntary, most traders have raised queries over the use of the official government letterhead in the letters.
“As a business community, we partner with the government on so many projects but there has never been a request extended to us through official letters," said Murang’a South Bar and Hotels Welfare Union secretary Martin Kagwi.
"The use of a government logo is aimed at coercing us so that we can donate to their feasts, fully aware that we are being profiled and can be victimised at a later date should we defy.”
Mr Kagwi reckons the request is a cheeky way of fundraising for the officers’ pre-Christmas treats “and we have to accommodate it despite our reservations due to how they treated us during the Covid-19 pandemic season”.
He said 2020 bar licences were declared null and void and there were no refunds. In 2021, he says, all bar owners were forced to pay full rates in August and in 2022 they will be expected to pay once again.
“When you evaluate how the government has treated the business community in the period of the pandemic, no sober entrepreneur would embrace giving officers a Christmas treat,” he said.
“In harsh economic times, people should individually fund their lifestyles…I am of the opinion that the government is the one that owes us a Christmas treat by waiving 2022 trading licences.”
Murang’a Deputy County Commissioner Mawira Mungania, who dispatched the letters, told the Nation that “there is nothing sinister in the request for support to hold parties since they are meant to build capacity so as to develop and strengthen skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources”.
Mr Mungania added that organisations and communities need to survive, adapt and thrive in a fast-changing world and hence the need to have them motivate government officers for improved services.
Ichagaki MCA Charles Mwangi criticised the funding proposal, terming it an extortion.
He said the government is the one that finances capacity building for its officers and there should never be room for unprocedural demand for cash from tax payers.
"When a government starts seeking funding from the sin industry, in essence it is indirectly telling them that as long as they can be philanthropic, you can negotiate about making the society captive to alcoholism," he said.
He said the Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho should probe the issue which he termed as corruption.
Reached for comment on the controversy, Central Regional Commissioner Wilfred Nyagwanga said he was not aware of such a programme.
“I sincerely don’t know about that…I have no idea and I will look into it. I will ask around and get to understand the whole issue. It sounds strange,” he said.