The promise of a Sh4.5 billion car grant, threats from pro-BBI powerful figures and sweeteners detailed in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill largely influenced MCAs to overwhelmingly vote for the document in county assemblies.
Interviews with the ward representatives have revealed that while the promise of a Sh2 million car grant for each of the members of the county assemblies was seen as the biggest reason for the endorsement of the document by 41 regional parliaments as at Thursday morning, other tactics like arm twisting also swayed the MCAs.
As a pointer to the behind-the-scenes intimidation at play, particularly in the lead up to ‘Super Tuesday’ when the Bill secured the requisite backing of 24 county assemblies, in Tana River the pressure to make good with the bigwigs was so great that the assembly skipped the need for public participation, altogether.
Public participation hearings were scheduled today, but the MCAs voted on the Bill on Tuesday evening. It passed on a vote of 14-4.
Tana River Assembly Majority Leader Salah Adamo, who voted against the Bill, claimed his colleagues were under external duress to pass the Bill.
"Yes, external pressure was very high which made members forget about the public participation scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021, in the three sub-counties and stages of a Bill in the county assembly," Adamo said.
Asked whether money was offered in exchange for approval of the legislation, the MCA said he was not aware of such inducement but questioned the conduct of proceedings.
"I cannot confirm if there was any token, but with how my colleagues acted with regards to this matter, anything is possible," he said
Authority in assemblies
Keen to stamp their authority in various assemblies controlled by them, President Uhuru Kenyatta, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, Wiper Democratic Movement boss Kalonzo Musyoka, his Maendeleo Chap Chap counterpart Alfred Mutua are some of the party bosses who came out to charm, even threaten, the MCAs to endorse the BBI Bill borne out of the March 2018 Uhuru-Raila handshake.
It took a February 8 meeting bringing together over 3,000 delegates and which was chaired by Mr Odinga to decide the fate of the Bill in Nyanza region.
The five-hour discussion among the delegates from Siaya, Migori, Kisumu and Homa Bay counties including governors, senators, MPs, MCAs, clergy, and civil society representatives prompted a rush by the county assemblies to pass the document.
The Speakers of Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori county assemblies pledged to have the Bill passed because it was important to have Mr Odinga's stronghold lead the pack.
In Kakamega, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya arranged a retreat with the ward representative in Kisumu and is reported to have taken a tough stance in his address.
"The MCAs had been talking tough before they met the governor but when he arrived for the meeting in Kisumu, the mood suddenly changed. Governor Oparanya did not mince words and told the county representatives that they would lose badly by failing to endorse the Bill and that appears to have done the trick," said a county official who attended the meeting.
Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, too, met the county’s MCAs at Bahari Hotel in Nyali.
“The governor told us that the BBI will be of benefit to us more than him. He mentioned to us about the ward funds and the 35 per cent revenue allocation to counties and that made sense to us,” said an MCA who attended the February 7 meeting.
However, during the closed door meeting, it is reported that the governor also dangled release of bursary and youth funds to the ward reps.
“The issue of the bursary and revolving was mentioned, but it was not in relation to passing of BBI. The governor talked about the issue as part of his plans this year because of the coronavirus effects witnessed last year and disrupted the county’s plans on the same,” nominated MCA Moses Aran defended the overture.
To signal how choreographed the exercise was, some 45 minutes before the Mombasa county assembly sat for Tuesday’s session, Speaker Aharub Khatri confidently spoke out about the outcome.
“I can assure you all the 42 members who will be here today, all of them will vote yes. You can take that to the bank,” Mr Khatri told journalists outside the assembly.
He added: “We are all in agreement that we are going to pass the BBI bill unanimously, because we are aware of the benefits that we will get as residents of Mombasa.”
The proceedings started at 10am and the business was concluded at around 11.35am. All the 42 members unanimously passed the draft Bill.
Elsewhere, other ward representatives said their colleagues had earlier threatened to shoot down the Bill but had changed their minds after they were assured of the car grants.
"It's unfortunate that most of my colleagues did not want the BBI Bill but voted with car grants as a motivation in their minds," said Isukha South MCA Faruk Machanje in Kakamega.
Mr Machanje and Mr Stanley Aseka were the only ones out of the 89 MCAs in Kakamega County who did not support the Bill.
In Migori, multiple sources indicated that the MCAs from the minority Kuria community bowed to pressure from the majority side despite incessant onslaught by Jubilee MPs from the community to scuttle the bill.
When voting started, Jubilee nominated MCA Grace Wangari walked out of the plenary but Makerero ward representative Joseph Hoyo defended her saying she had an important call to answer.
But there were goodies that also persuaded some lawmakers to support the Bill.
The BBI Bill proposes the creation of a Ward Development Fund pegged at five per cent of the total revenue in the county—a key kitty that will make MCAs in charge of direct development in their wards.
The BBI team has also proposed that the wards be considered as the lowest level of planning, for development and budgeting, giving more focus to the electoral units ran by the 1,450 MCAs.
For those who want to be MPs in future, MCAs have celebrated the provision in BBI that deletes a requirement in law that barred them from running for a parliamentary seat if they do not resign six months to the election.
The proposal to create 70 extra constituencies, it has emerged, also excited MCAs who now see an opportunity to ascend to the August House.
Besides, the 70 extra constituencies may mean extra wards given, unlike the constituencies pegged at 290, to be raised to 360 if the BBI Bill passes, their number is not stated and can go as many as the electoral commission thinks are necessary for adequate representation.
In Murang’a, MCAs who unanimously endorsed the bill had been in Mombasa for a two-day retreat together with Governor Mwangi wa Iria.
Although the agenda of the meeting was largely on the supplementary budget, the Nation learnt the BBI bill also featured prominently in the discussions which changed the tide.
“Jubilee Party warned all of our 18 nominated MCAs that they risked losing their seats if they went against party position of endorsing the BBI…There were some morsels thrown around here and there from both levels of government,” a confidential source at the assembly told the Nation.
The source added that the Tangatanga side was not helped by the fact that “it tabled no definite position to be followed by its loyalists and it was very silent on the motivation package as the Handshake side even gave each MCA a Sh2 million car grant”
Mt Kenya MCAs caucus Chairman Mr Charles Mwangi said they agreed to support the bill.
“After consulting widely with senior government officials, State House representatives and our governor, we were all whipped to see the goodness in the document,” he said.
What followed was a public participation forum that Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata dismissed as a farce.
In Meru, MCAs who spoke to Nation said they were under pressure from the executive to pass the bill.
Ruiri Rwarera MCA Peter Kalembe, who voted No against the bill said it was subjected to voting by acclamation to expose those who would reject it.
Mr Kalembe also said most of the MCAs were under duress during the debate on the proposed constitution amendments.
“The executive was watching closely. If MCAs were given a chance to participate in secret voting, many could have rejected it,” he said.
During the debate session on Tuesday, Municipality MCA Elias Murega was put to task by Speaker Joseph Kaberia over a claim that the executive had taken over the public gallery.
“A big number of members of the executive were there to watch how each MCA would vote. It was meant to intimidate the MCAs. I was also denied a change to speak my mind at the assembly,” Mr Murega said.
And in Nyeri, MCAs said they acknowledged key proposals contained in the bill.
It mentions the creation of a Ward Development Fund pegged at five per cent of the total revenue in the county.
The ward representatives said this makes them in charge of direct development in their wards.
Reporting by Mohamed Ahmed, Stephen Oduor, Rushdie Oudia, Shaban Makokha, Ian Byron, David Muchui, Mwangi Muiruri, Reginah Kinogu and Vitalis Kimutai