County assemblies have spent millions of shillings to finance non-essential foreign trips by their members.
The representatives—known as Members of County Assemblies (MCAs)—have justified the trips by arguing that they help them learn the best practices in other countries.
The most popular destinations are Israel, Dubai, Zanzibar and Rwanda.
Currently, MCAs from Taita-Taveta County are in Zanzibar, while those from Mandera County are in Israel. Those from Uasin Gishu are in Rwanda.
FEW AND FAR BETWEEN
Those from Nyeri visited Ethiopia last year and will leave for Rwanda tomorrow. Others from Machakos recently returned from Dubai.
The speaker of the Nairobi City County Assembly, Mr Alex ole Magelo, defended the trips made by MCAs from Nairobi, saying, they were few and far between compared to other counties. The last trip they made was to Denver in the US. During the trip, the leaders spent Sh3.9 million.
Mr Magelo said the trip was beneficial because delegation got assistance from the Denver City, which is rehabilitating a primary school in Nairobi.
“As a result of the visit to the United States, Kenya will be getting back some artifacts that were taken illegally which are worth millions and are now displayed in museums in the US,” he said.
Another team of five MCAs and county executive members visited London on November 6 to attend an International Trade Fair.
Mr Magelo said this was important because the county had to assure foreign businessmen attending the fair that Nairobi was safe despite the September attack on the Westgate mall.
The Controller of Budget recently asked county governments to be more prudent and cut down on foreign travel. Ms Agnes Odhiambo said some counties spent millions of shillings on expensive trips abroad, training and other engagements that did not add value to their counties.
“There is a lot of extravagance. We have spent much on foreign travel and other endeavours. If there are visits, we should have reports on them and the public should be told about their benefits,” she told the Senate Committee on Finance last week.
Her office had earlier established through an audit that most counties spent cash on recurrent expenditure, leaving little for development.
The report established that 27 counties had spent allocations for July to September in paying salaries, travel, hospitality and maintenance.
In Kiambu, foreign trips started in earnest towards the end of November 2013.
MCAs from the county travelled to Israel in groups of between 10 and 15 members. Another group also travelled to South Africa.
In Machakos, 60 MCAs, including Speaker Bernard Mungata recently returned from a week-long trip to Dubai where they had gone to get first-hand information on a recreational park similar to the one the County Government is putting up in Machakos. The county expects to open the park to the public on Valentine’s Day next month.
The MCAs were joined in the trip by Governor Alfred Mutua and chief of staff Mwengi Mutuse.
Last July, the 60 MCAs together with about 10 members of the executive, made their first trip abroad on a South African tour. They also visited Turkey, Rwanda, Israel and Dubai.
Mr Mungata defended the trips, saying, they are important for their growth “as the countries so far visited have some common practices with us.” Trip money was provided for in the county’s budget, he added.
MCAs from Kitui are on a 10-day educational tour of various cities in Israel—the second group to visit the Middle East country this month. They flew out last Wednesday and are expected back on Saturday.
County Speaker George Ndotto, whose office was responsible for arranging the trip, is leading the delegation. The cost of the trip could not be established, but runs into millions of shillings.
Besides the air travel costs, insurance, accommodation in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, each member was paid a daily allowance of Sh31,000. The money was deposited in the MCAs bank accounts before they flew out.
The County Assembly Speaker, his deputy and the majority leader’s allowances for the trip are slightly higher.
The trip, which will include a visit to Bethlehem, is meant to teach the MCAs about modern agriculture.
In Nyeri, MCA have spent more than Sh10 million on two foreign trips in the recent past. The officials, including Speaker David Mugo and the Majority leader, Mr Anthony Kibuu, said the trips had been budgeted for.
Interestingly, the trip to Ethiopia did not involve a select group, but the entire assembly, including staff.
During the trip, the members were divided into two groups with the first group being led by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Joel Gichuru.
A representative said the team did not visit any coffee farm although the coffee industry in Ethiopia was one of the reasons for the Sh11.6 million mission.
Another MCA said every member on the trip was paid Sh172,000 as per diem amounting to Sh8.6 million for the 50 members.
A return Air ticket for each member cost Sh60,000.
Early this month, the MCAs also toured Tanzania to learn how that country has managed to make mountain climbing a top revenue earner for its economy.
“We want to make good use of our two natural resources—Mt Kenya and the Aberdare Ranges—just like Tanzanians are benefiting from Mt Kilimanjaro,” Mr Kibuu said.
In Nakuru, delegations from the county made several trips to various countries between July and October last year. These included the United States, Finland, Israel, China and Spain.
Governor Kinuthia Mbugua, defended the trips, saying, they were important in making contacts with investors.
However, a week-long trip to Uganda by MCAs in July drew protests from the public and the civil society after it emerged that the officials had spent Sh16 million.
The trip came at a time when Mr Mbugua was dealing with the rejection of his county executive committee nominees by the MCAs.
In Mandera, the minority leader in the county assembly, Mr Abdirashid Maalim, has raised the red flag over a trip to Israel, which is estimated to have cost Sh15 million.
The 14-day trip by 27 MCAs was paid for by the County Assembly.
In Uasin Gishu, the County Assembly and the Executive continue to trade accusations on how to manage the foreign trips.
The Governor, Mr Jackson Mandago, criticised the MCAs for spending too much time on foreign trips at the expense of passing the relevant legislation to facilitate the work of his executive.
“These county reps recently went to Rwanda at a cost of Sh20 million. The money could have been diverted to other projects such as roads,” he said.
But assembly speaker Isaac Terer and leader of Majority Josephat Lowoi said on phone from Rwanda that the trips were financed from the assembly budget that had been approved in line with the law.
“Our trip is for the betterment of the people, he” said.
The MCAs will spend six days in Rwanda.
In Baringo, MCAs toured Rwanda and Uganda mid last yea to learn best practices. The cost of the trips, which involved 30 MCAs could not be established.
Kisumu County was also on the spot over a private trip to Germany for 11 MCAs who were paid Sh33,000 each unprocedurally.
Last year, 47 county representatives spent Sh7.5 million on a six-day study tour to Uganda.
According to the Hansard of August 6, the assembly also approved Sh694,847 for Speaker Anne Adul to attend the National Conference of State Legislature in Atlanta, Georgia between August 11 and 15.
The only MCAs, who have not been out of the country since they assumed office last year are from Mombasa.
Reported by Patrick Nzioka, John Ngirachu, Bob Odalo, James Ngunjiri, Stephen Muthini, Copperfield Lagat, Wycliff Kipsang, Tom Matoke, Daniel Nyassy, Abdimalik Hajir, Jonathan Manyindo, Moraa Obiria, Moses Odhiambo, Maurice Kalouch Geoffrey Rono, Benson Amadala, Derick Luveg, Farouk Mwabege and Kitavi Mutua