Changes to law on stipends will make access harder, MPs say

Inua Jamii programme

Beneficiaries of the Inua Jamii programme wait to be served by KCB Bank staff at Meru Primary School in April 2020. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

At least one million poor and vulnerable persons who receive stipends from the government face tough times if proposed changes to the law are adopted.

The proposed Social Assistance (Repeal) Bill, 2020, seeks to replace the principal law with the Public Finance Management (Social Assistance Fund) Regulations 2021, to be managed by the National Treasury.

Previously, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection was in charge of the fund, before the responsibility was moved to the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes.

A section of MPs have opposed the amendment saying it poses challenges for the intended beneficiaries in accessing the fund as it increases the already existing bureaucratic red tape.

MPs Godfrey Osotsi (nominated) and Nelson Koech (Belgut) say that if the proposed Bill is passed in its current form, it will mean lengthy negotiations with Treasury before the funds are released.

The elderly raise concerns over the mode of payment of bi-monthly government stipend

Mr Osotsi said that the parent ministries will cede the power to withdraw funds directly from their accounts at the Central Bank of Kenya to Treasury.

“The poor and vulnerable persons will suffer because the proposed law will only make the process unnecessarily long and tedious. The most important thing the government should be thinking of is how to seal the leakages in disbursements,” he said.

Section 37 of the Social Assistance Act, which is targeted for repeal, stipulates that at least three months before the commencement of each financial year, the National Social Service Authority (NSSA) shall cause to be prepared estimates of revenue and expenditure for that year. However, this has never happened since NSSA was never established.

The government has instead been disbursing Sh2,000 a month to each beneficiary through the Inua Jamii, a consolidated cash transfer programme.

Poor children, those above 70 years and those with severe disabilities are the listed beneficiaries of the fund started by President Uhuru Kenyatta.