Members of County Assemblies (MCA’s) have morphed into something reminiscent of their national Parliament counterparts. They have with time since the promulgation of the new Constitution become the new faces of corruption. Whether it is in unnecessary trips both local and international, or bribery allegations, MCAs have been found to be just as corrupt, if not more, than other national and county government official.
A recent survey by research firm Afrobarometer in partnership with University of Nairobi’s Institute of Development Studies also ranked County officials, including MCAs, very high up on the list of most corrupt. This did not come as a surprise to some.
“Elected officials in Kenya have always looked at their offices as feeding ground, and their terms in offices as their ‘turn to eat’ so I can say this was expected. That is not to say their actions are excusable, but I’m not surprised,”
explains Ephraim Mwangi, an analyst working with a research firm in Mombasa.
Misuse of resources and abuse of office are some of the accusations leveled against the ward representatives. Sometime back, it was revealed that Uasin Gishu MCAs paid themselves sh236, 000 as monthly sitting allowances, making a show of flagrant abuse of office.
“We had issues in the past with members of the national legislature banding together to increase their salaries inordinately. Now devolution is here and we seem to have devolved the corruption to County level,”
says Jay Sikuku, a blogger with interest in activities in the counties.
It is becoming increasingly clear how the county representatives are pawns in the political games involving the misuse of public resources and embezzlement of funds meant for development. They serve as a defense, coming out to root for whichever official (such as the Governor, accused of corruption). Claims of political witch hunt are made and the accused official often walks away free.
“They are easily bought. Their silence can be gotten for a few thousands Shillings,”
says a Mombasa county assembly official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. He goes further to reveal how certain members were paid to keep mum on misappropriated funds in the office of the Governor, preventing a scam that would have had serious implications on many careers.
“We are only human. We have bills to pay and our pay cannot surely sustain our kind of lifestyle. When an offer comes through and all you have to do is look aside, then we do just that. Besides, the majority will take the money and you might be isolated,” says an MCA who declined to be named.
County representatives are supposed to be watchdogs for the county governments. They are supposed to hold the Governor and his staff, including County Executive Members, accountable. They are elected by the people and should be serving Kenyans’ interests. This seems, however, a distant dream as the county assembles have either become architects for corruption schemes or the protection of corrupt individuals.
It is hoped that the new drive shown by the office of the President and the Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission will do something to tame the rampant corruption at the county level.