The CountyTrak Senator’s approval survey, conducted by Infotrak Research on behalf of the Daily Nation on the perceived performance of Senators and published on Tuesday this week ranked Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr position 22 with an approval rating of 51.8 percent.
Although the research done between the months of December 2015 and February 2015 ranked the youthful senator’s performance slightly above average, he was the last in the Lower Eastern region. Mutula Jnr, elected to the senate through a by -election following his father’s death Mutula Kilonzo Snr, was beaten by his Machakos and Kitui counterparts Senator Johnstone Muthama and David Musila, ranked in the 13th and 16th positions with an approval ratings of 55.7 and 54.9 percent respectively.
The lawyer- turned politician according to Mzalendo, a parliamentary watchdog institution, has spoken 331 times in the Senate. His latest appearance was on the 19 May when he gave his contribution to a statement requested by Kitui Senator David Musila from the Ministry of Gender and Social Services on the status of cash transfer program for the elderly and vulnerable persons.
Mutula Jnr, stated in his contribution that the officers coordinating the disbursement of the cash as well as the number of recipients in Makueni County were unknown. He also questioned the manner in which the money was being paid to the beneficiaries terming the payment process through the post office and banks as opaque.
“These cash transfers are done through the post office in a manner that is not understood by anybody or through banks, we would also like to know the persons who are said to be doing this in counties,” he said.(sic)
However, the senator’s statement came barely two weeks after the Department of Gender and Social Services disbursed sh40m to more than 5, ooo beneficiaries under the cash transfer program begging the question whether, he is in touch with what happens at the grass root level.
The electronic payments that were officially launched at the Kenya Commercial Bank Wote, branch in the presence of the Branch Manager Lawrence Musyoka and Gender Officer Peter Ng’an’ga saw more 122 beneficiaries from Wote division receive each sh8,000 as a bi-monthly stipend of sh2,000 for January to April.
The Senator on the same day contributing to a point of order raised by Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar on county health services opposed the reversion of the health function from the counties to the national government. He dismissed the clamor to return the health services as misleading, pointless and instead called for more funding from the Commission of Revenue (CRA) to support the function.
Mutula Jnr also proposed that the Senate Committee on Health should prepare a report on the sufficient funding required for the health function and table it to the senate for adoption.
He said “My own perspective would be that our Committee on Health should give a report on the budget that is sufficient to cater for this function to this Senate that we should adopt.”(sic)
Mutula Jnr’s assertion for increased funding for health services, was perhaps informed by the lack of quality health care services at the county level with the frequent strikes, go slows and mass exodus of health practitioners from public health hospitals painting a grim picture on the health function.
Although Makueni County has not witnessed any such cases, the services are no better and most health facilities are understaffed a predicament that Health Executive Dr. Andrew Mulwa admits poses a great challenge to quality health care.
The senator’s previous appearance was on May 13 where he supported the Public Audit Bill 9 (National Assembly Bill No 38 of 2014.) that seeks to provide for the functions and powers of the Office of the Auditor-General in accordance with the Constitution.
In his submissions, the Senator underscored the need for every county to have an auditor general to monitor spending. He noted that the current audit office in its capacity could not expedite its work and especially for the troubled Makueni County whose audit report for the 2013/2014 financial year would have helped the commission of inquiry appointed to look into the possible dissolution of the county in determining its fate.
“The Auditor-General says that the audit for Makueni County for the Financial Year, 2013/2014 is not ready. This, therefore, presents a tragic situation that when a county like mine is facing all sorts of issues, including allegations of misappropriations all over the place, we do not have a method of dealing with the issue.’’he said(sic).
The incessant wrangling between Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and Members of the County Assembly on budget related issues has led to accusations and counter accusations of misappropriation of funds by the two arms of the government and the senator’s support on the public audit bill could therefore, not come at a better time .
Another notable contribution by senator Mutula jnr was on March 17 on the setting of budgetary ceilings for county assemblies by the CRA, a thorny issue in Makueni county. The Makueni County Assembly had declined to heed to the ceilings prompting a budget stalemate after the governor refused to assent to the 2014/2015 budget citing huge budgetary demands by the MCAs.
Although the court had ordered the county assemblies to adhere to the ceilings, the Senator pointed out that the stalemate in Makueni had led to the delay of salaries for the county assembly staff including the MCAs.
Mutula Jnr said “The court has made a finding on the legality of ceilings and the Speakers’ forum which filed this matter in court has not appealed that decision…while people are complaining here, the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) of Makueni have not received salaries for a period of four months.”(sic)
Others issues that the Senator has raised in the Senate are pollution of Athi river which traverses the county, rural electrification, boundary disputes between Makueni and neighboring counties and especially the long standing feud over the location of the Konza techno city as well as human wildlife conflict especially along the areas that border Tsavo and Chyulu National parks leading to loss of lives and property worth millions of shillings.
The Senator has sponsored one Bill, the Government Proceedings (Amendment) Bill, 2014 which seeks to amend section 21 of the Government Proceeding Act, CaP 40, so as to extend its application to county governments and protect the interests of the county entities.
Most of the issues that Mutula Jnr has raised in the senate resonate with the needs of the residents and the rankings by Infotrak with an average approval rating of 51.8 percent may not accurately represent his contributions in the floor of the Senate. But this could be that the people are unaware of the specific contributions he made.