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CAF wants MCAs probing Bungoma jerrycans scandal protected

Friday April 24 2020

Bungoma's Sh10,000 jerrycan

One of the 600 20-litre jerrycans that Bungoma County purchased at Sh10,000 each. PHOTO | BRIAN OJAMAA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC MATARA
By ERIC MATARA
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The County Assemblies Forum (CAF) wants Bungoma MCAs investigating the purchase of 600 20-litre jerrycans at Sh10,000 each protected from intimidation.

In a statement on Thursday, chairman Ndegwa Wahome criticised an incident on Tuesday in which police denied a committee investigating the scandal access to the assembly.

"Whereas the CAF appreciates the directives by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Ministry of Health to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken issue with a move by Bungoma security authorities to deploy the police officers who blocked MCAs from accessing the county assembly premises. This is outright intimidation of MCAs carrying out their oversight role," he said.

He added, "The CAF is concerned that a county assembly can be intimidated by security teams as MCAs carry out their oversight role in connection to funds allocated and expended by the County Covid-19 Response Team. This is unacceptable."

He asked Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i to ensure officials used to intimidate the MCAs are punished.

POWERS

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Mr Ndegwa also spoke of an incident in Kirinyaga, where the county commissioner wrote to the assembly informing it that he would not allow sittings to proceed.

He said the commissioner also said he would prescribe the number of members that would be allowed into the chambers, yet he did not have the powers to do so.

The CAF chair noted that the assembly precincts are constitutionally protected.

"Furthermore, the County Assemblies Powers and Privileges Act, 2017 specifically provides that only the Speaker of the Assembly has the power to authorise a security officer to enter into or remain within the precincts of the assembly," he said.

PRUDENCE

Mr Wahome, who is the Nyandarua County Speaker, noted the CAF's need to ensure prudent use of resources by devolved units, as they collaborate with the government in the fight against the virus.

"Assemblies have the constitutional duty to enact supporting legislation to ensure proper and real-time oversight of the various interventions by county governments," he said.

He urged counties to ensure proper use of money and other resources in delivering services to the people as the country fights further spread of the coronavirus.

He also asked national and county government teams spearheading the fight to ascertain that their decisions and interventions are in line with the rule of law, democracy and the principle of separation of powers.

WHAT HAPPENED

The 15 members of the assembly's Health committee were denied access into the assembly premises, by armed anti-riot police officers deployed to the gate.

The MCAs went there to transact committee business part of the investigation.

A brief altercation ensued as the ward representatives fought to gain entry but they were overpowered.

In his remarks on the incident, Bungoma County Commissioner Abdi Hassan said police blocked the entrance to the assembly stop what he termed a public meeting.

"We were enforcing a State directive banning public gatherings as the country fight the spread of the virus," said Mr Hassan.

He asked the assembly team patiently await inspection and fumigation of the venue, and write to the local administration for permission to meet.

GOVERNOR'S RESPONSE

Nine Bungoma officials implicated in the scandal have been summoned to appear before the assembly's committee.

It is said that they inflated the cost of the jerrycans and other materials the county procured.

In his reponse to allegation of misusing funds, Governor Wycliffe Wangamati asked political leaders in the county not to use the Covid-19 outbreak to settle scores.

He claimed some leaders were lying to residents and misleading them about the county's preparedness.

The governor said that the 120-litre containers the county distributed to markets for handwashing were donated by well-wishers. However, he declined to name the donors.