Ward representatives in 19 counties have gobbled up billions of shillings in salaries and allowances, but they have passed no bill or legislation since their election in 2017, raising questions about their ability to perform their core mandates.
A Nation investigation has revealed that among these counties are some where assembly members (MCAs) and staff have spent a fortune on benchmarking trips locally and abroad so as to learn on how to legislate.
The list of shame of assemblies in which no single MCA has successfully sponsored legislation or a bill in the past two years includes Bungoma, Embu, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kericho, Kiambu, Kisumu, Mandera, Meru, Migori, Mombasa, Nakuru, Nyamira, Nyandarua, Siaya, Tharaka-Nithi, Turkana and Wajir.
In January, Bungoma MCAs spent Sh15 million on a benchmarking trip to Uganda, where they were to gain insights on the development of industrial parks. The Nation has learnt that no MCA in Bungoma has since sponsored a bill to support the establishment of a single industrial park in the county.
In June last year, Bungoma MCAs also toured the neighbouring Kakamega County to learn how to make laws and build capacity on their oversight roles. More than a year later, none has tabled any bill in the assembly.
In May, Embu MCAs also spent Sh14 million on a trip to Tanzania, while their counterparts in Meru travelled to Rwanda in December last year to copy notes on dairy farming.
Much to their chagrin, the MCAs were shocked to find out that Rwanda had copied its dairy farming model from farmers in Kenya. The MCAs returned home and have not tabled any bill to facilitate modern dairy farming.
In February, Isiolo MCAs travelled to Dubai on a trip meant to strengthen the operations of the assembly, while their counterparts from Mombasa travelled to Egypt on a benchmarking mission. None of them has tabled what they learnt from these trips.
Although they have passed the mandatory bills — on finance, appropriations and supplementary budgets — without which county government operations would stall, they have so far failed to make any other legislation, which has made it difficult for counties to fully absorb their budgets, since some programmes require legislation before being financed.
As a result, the affected counties have been carrying forward billions of shillings to the following financial year. These funds could have been used to buy drugs for hospitals, pay for road maintenance or create jobs for youth, among others.
This analysis by the Nation is based on a County Assemblies Bills Tracker report prepared by the County Assemblies Forum (CAF), an umbrella body. The tracker provides an analysis of lawmaking in the assemblies and details the number of Acts and bills before each assembly.
Each assembly provides regular information to the tracker, which is updated after every two weeks. The last report has updates up to June 30. It shows that a total of 1,982 pieces of legislation have been brought before assemblies since 2013 and up to June 30.
Garissa is the best-performing assembly in terms of passing legislation, followed by Trans Nzoia, Kakamega, Laikipia and Samburu. Other top performers are Kirinyaga, Kisii, Kitui, Kwale, Makueni, and Murang’a.
Garissa has passed 11 bills and two regulations since 2013, Trans Nzoia has passed nine bills, Kakamega and Laikipia four, while Samburu has enacted three laws. Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Kitui, Kwale, Makueni and Murang’a have each passed a bill in the period under review.
CAF chairman Johnson Osoi, who is also Kajiado Speaker, said the number of bills should not be the only parameter used to measure the success of county assemblies.
To a great extent, the bills that come to the county assemblies are private members’ proposals.
“The county executives are to blame for the failure to generate and transmit government bills to their respective assemblies for processing,” he said. “What would assemblies do if the bills are not brought? It is a reflection of how bad both the county executive and assemblies are doing,”
The core functions of county assemblies are, among others, making laws and overseeing the executive.