Nairobi ward representatives are on the spot for splashing millions of shillings on retreats at a time when some House committee meetings could not take off due to quorum hitches.
A damning report tabled by the assembly’s Liaison Committee late last month revealed the MCAs spent more than Sh85 million in allowances for the ward reps last year alone.
According to the report, despite the committee sittings being held virtually, members failed to log in, leading to lack of quorum to transact business.
The assembly suspended all physical committee sittings last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Only key teams such as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are allowed to hold physical sittings.
During the assembly’s fifth session between February 4 and December 3, 2020, the ward representatives went on 45 retreats through the 23 committees at the city assembly.
It also emerged that the committees failed to table retreat reports, exposing the assembly to audit queries.
The Ruai MCA John Kamangu-led committee revealed that Mombasa is the preferred retreat destination, with Pride Inn Hotel the place to be.
When MCAs go on a retreat, they are entitled to a daily per diem of Sh14,000, in addition to a Sh20,000 transport allowance.
Sh63 million in per diem
With an average of 25 members and with each retreat lasting an average of four days, the assembly coughed up Sh63 million in per diem during the period under review.
And at least Sh22.5 million was spent on transport allowances for the members during the 45 retreats held.
The MCAs reportedly shunned the less lucrative virtual committee sittings.
Each member earns Sh3,000 per committee sitting.
“The committees still lacked quorum despite most of them being held virtually. Members failed to log in virtually for the meetings, which affected the proceedings,” the report prepared during a retreat at Kisumu’s Ciala Resort between February 11 and 15, 2021 reads in part.
The report recommended that all chairpersons crack the whip by invoking Standing Order number 179 on errant members who fail to attend committee sittings.
The standing order gives a committee power to suspend a member after getting the green light from the Speaker.
A member can be de-whipped from a committee for failing to attend four consecutive sittings without the written permission of the committee’s chairperson or that of the Speaker.
The committees that went on three retreats each include the Energy and ICT committee, the Ward Development Fund committee, the Powers and Privileges committee, the Environment committee, the PAC and the Labour and Welfare committee.
The Labour and Welfare committee is interestingly planning to go on a foreign trip to learn best practices on systems of devolution.
The Budget and Appropriations, Early Child Education, Trade, Transport and Public Works committee, the Water committee and the Justice and Legal Affairs committee had two retreats each.
The Public Investment Committee went on the same number of retreats, reportedly to enable members to consider a performance audit report on the provision of sewerage in major towns. The report is still pending before the committee, which cites lack of capacity to debate and consider it.
The Committee on Delegated Legislation, which also went on two retreats, considered only two reports and has 16 pending businesses with retreats forming 50 per cent of its output.
“There is a notion by members that the committee is not a busy one and that being placed in it is a form of punishment. The notion has led to some members being de-motivated and showing little interest in the committee,” read the report.
The Committee on Implementation held one retreat, same as the House Business committee, the Members Services and Facilities committee, the Culture and Community services committee and the Planning and Housing committee.
Women Caucus, which has 40 members, held no sitting, considered no report but went on a retreat to enable members undergo capacity building.
During the period under focus, 93 reports were tabled, 25 bills committed before committees, two petitions received, six site visits done, 60 requests for statements received and 1,119 committee sittings held.