Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, his nine county executives and 44 MCAs all flew to Mombasa on Sunday for a one-week retreat that will cost at least Sh7 million.
The leaders went to Pride Inn Hotel to review the implementation of the budget and discuss the status of development projects.
Reached for comment by the Nation on Tuesday, Speaker John Kaguchia said the trip was fully funded by Kenya Devolution Support Programme (KDSP), a World Bank project.
However, a county official, who requested anonymity due to lack of authority to speak to the media, said KDSP partially funded the retreat.
Attempts to reach the governor and Majority Leader James Kanyugo for their comments were unsuccessful as they did not respond to calls and messages.
Each MCA is entitled to Sh14,000 daily in per diem and allowances for the seven days of the summit, translating to Sh4.3 million.
They will also get back what they spent to travel to Nairobi and back.
The Speaker and county executives are each entitled to between Sh16,000-Sh20,000 in per diem, which translates to an average of Sh120,000 for each one, amounting to Sh1.2 million.
Other county employees - including the governor's press team, the security detail and assembly staff - will pocket allowances for attending the retreat.
A return ticket to Mombasa costs about Sh8,200, bringing the cost of flying the leaders to Mombasa to about Sh500,000.
The estimated total cost of Sh7 million does not include that of hiring the conference hall, stationery, tea breaks and other meals.
The governor was accompanied by advisers David Mugo (legal) and Ndirangu Gachunia (economic), who were tasked with moderating sessions with the help of heads of assembly committees.
Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu and Assembly Speaker John Kaguchia also took the trip.
According to Mr Kaguchia, the ministers were to outline the plan for the 2019-20 financial year and break down the key projects each department will implement.
“This is an interactive forum for the executive and the assembly to review their performance and challenges and deliberate on the way forward,” he said.
Some executives have been on the spot over poor absorption of funds and slow progress in the implementation of projects.
According to the programme, the county also invited the National Treasury to make a presentation on end-to-end procurement and payments through the Integrated Financial Management System.
Devolved units often go to other counties for their meetings, reportedly for the sake of maximum attendance and concentration.
As such, they have been accused of wasting resources by ignoring cheaper options.
On Mr Kahiga’s official Facebook page, resident John Kanyingi wondered why the county did not make use of Nyeri's hotels.
“Just wondering why the meetings could not be done at Aberdare Country Club. At least it helps the Nyeri economy. No flight tickets needed and it is quiet,” he said.
"Mr Governor, save some money to implement important projects by holding your county meetings in Nyeri. Why all the way in Mombasa at luxurious hotels?"
The trip was on the backdrop of calls for adherence to the austerity measures that President Uhuru Kenyatta announced in 2018, including proposed cuts on travel.
Counties have complained of being underfunded but continue to splash billions in heavy perks and trips, both locally and abroad.
Nyeri executives and MCAs splashed Sh53 million on domestic and foreign travel in the three months to September in the current financial year.
In the same period, the county used only Sh36 million on hospital supplies.
In January, Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina complained that counties were spending millions of shillings on trips at the expense of essential services in sectors including health and education.
“When counties receive money, officials should make informed decisions on whether to go for benchmarking trips or give students enough in bursaries,” he noted.