Sakaja: Some MPs are trying to arm-twist me into paying pending bills to cronies

Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja during an interview at his office in Nairobi on April 26, 2024.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The governor challenged the Senate Finance Committee to declare any conflicts of interest.
  • Senator Khalwale said some MPs were frustrating Governor Sakaja to make him look bad.

Members of parliamentary oversight committees have been accused of using their positions to influence the payment of pending bills in counties.

On Thursday, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja caused a stir when he suggested that some MPs and senators were behind the capital city's woes.

Asked to shed light on the issue of garbage collection, where contractors have suspended services over unpaid bills, the county boss said some lawmakers who sit on oversight committees were pushing for certain companies to be paid under the guise of representing the plight of the affected contractors.

“I am not the registrar of businesses so I do not know the beneficial owners but I will tell you that senators and MPs push for certain businesses to be paid,” he said. “Senators and MPs push for businesses to be paid, contractors to be paid, lawyers to be paid... I will not mention names because that is not why I am here. [But] There is always that pressure.”

The governor challenged the Senate Finance Committee to declare any conflicts of interest.

“You pretend that you are oversighting, yet you have an interest that is a business interest, but you want to look like an angel. We must be honest with each other, we must be honest as a country.”

The county boss expressed concerns that the Sh33.4 billion meant for county expenditure as the financial year comes to a close is already fully spent.

“I feel pity for my CEC Finance because everyone is on their phones; everybody wants their company to be paid,” he stated. “I know the standing orders, you (lawmakers) need to declare whether you have interest in any company."

The county owes Sh107 billion in outstanding bills, including money owed to the city's garbage collectors.

Speaking at the Senate Finance and Budget Committee meeting, Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna distanced himself from allegations of doing business with the county, while seeking clarity on whether the contractors had suspended their services.

“The stories that we hear out there is that the reason we have a garbage collection problem is because these contractors are either sabotaging you or are on strike,” he said.

“I am one of the people accused of doing business with the County of Nairobi when I do not. The governor has not mentioned any names,” he stated.

“I have heard people say I am also a garbage collector, that I have pending bills in Nairobi that are being paid through the backdoor. I want this thing to be clear. If there are members of this committee, or members of the Senate or National Assembly doing business with the county of Nairobi, this is the opportunity [to say so].”

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale said some MPs were frustrating Governor Sakaja to make him look bad to the electorate.

The committee, led by Mandera Senator Ali Roba, heard that Nairobi County revenue collection stood at Sh12.8 billion against a target of Sh13 billion for the financial year ending June 30, 2023.

The governor blamed the shortfall on the nationwide anti-tax protests, in which Nairobi bore the brunt of wanton destruction. He expressed optimism that the county would meet the new revenue collection target of Sh20 billion in the 2024/2025 financial year.

Sakaja said that a part of the county’s revenue is used to pay salaries, citing irregular disbursements from the exchequer as a huge impediment.