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MCA seat takes the cake as over 20,000 eye position

Do you want to be elected a Member of the County Assembly in the August 8 General Election? Well, join the queue!

You are one of the approximately 20,000 people who have expressed interest in the seat.

From what used to be a godforsaken, non-lucrative job of councillor in Kenya’s defunct local authorities before the elections in March 2013, the MCA is the new coveted position.

Droves of professionals that had in 2013 shunned the seat are trooping back to their wards, with big names in medicine, accountancy, journalism, law and even academia.

Even nominated senator Godliver Omondi has declared interest in the Kholera Ward MCA seat. “The MCA position is not one to joke with. They are not the councillors of yesteryears. They control billions, and you need someone who knows how to make the money come to you,” President Uhuru Kenyatta told locals at various stops in his Nakuru tour two weeks ago.

So intense is the interest in the MCA position that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) estimates that the number of aspirants for the six elective seats would almost triple to 40,000 in the August elections, from only 14,000 in the 2013 polls.

“With it, we expect monumental challenges to tackle nomination disputes and other dynamics,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said.

LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE

Because of the increased interest in the seat, and the possibility of many candidates running in all the 1,450 wards, the IEBC is staring at a logistical nightmare at the poll.
The commission now has to design and procure longer ballot papers, with a requirement for a picture of each of the aspirants, meaning it will take longer for one to finish polling at the booth, Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba said.

An analysis of the 2013 elections showed that every voter takes an average of three to four minutes, but with long, winding ballot papers with unending pictures, the possibility of voters taking longer in the August poll is high.

READ: Nightmare of MCA numbers in election

But why do so many Kenyans want to be MCAs? Mr Albert Kochei, the County Assemblies Forum Secretary-General, summarised it thus: “People have seen the billions controlled by these people, the monetary benefits that come with the job and a general feeling that Kenyans have now appreciated the constitutional role of MCAs — that they are not the councillors we used to have.”

Two, the place they would represent is quite small, with some wards the size of a village and with almost all families known to the contestant in person.

Three, the money. The seat that requires as little as a three-month post-secondary education to qualify for, is quite lucrative. An MCA earns about Sh250,000 per month, and with attractive sitting allowances, foreign trips and other resultant benefits, one can take home as much as half a million shillings. In 2015/16 alone, MCAs in the 47 counties gobbled up Sh2.82 billion in sitting allowances only.

The Controller of Budget has detailed exaggerated sitting allowances paid to the ward representatives, way above the Sh124,000 per annum cap.

And there is more. In 2013, MCAs bulldozed the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to give them a Sh2 million car loan at an interest rate of three per cent to be repaid within their term in office.

Also, they got a Sh3 million mortgage, plus a mileage allowance of Sh39,528, with a provision for every extra kilometre travelled.
There are 2,224 MCAs in Kenya; 1,450 elected and 774 nominated.

COMPETENT PEOPLE

“Five years ago, people did not want to be MCA. Now professionals are gunning for it. And that’s a good thing because we will now have competent people as MCAs,” devolution expert Mutakha Kangu told the Nation.

The MCAs have become a law unto themselves, terrorising governors — who risk impeachment at the slightest provocation — and who have to part with money, in most cases, to calm them down.

Since March 2013, five governors — Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Murang’a’s Mwangi wa Iria, Embu’s Martin Wambora and Nyeri’s Nderitu Gachagua — have been impeached by their MCAs, but have all been saved by the Senate, save for Mr Wambora.

In Prof Kibwana’s Makueni, the constitutional lawyer called the MCAs’ bluff and even consented to dissolution of the county — the last straw that breaks the camel’s back in Kenya’s county governments.

A tribunal chosen by President Kenyatta on the recommendation of the Senate, however, gave the county a lifeline. “I thank Prof Kibwana for calling the MCAs’ bluff. It is the example we want, where leaders become selfless and let wananchi decide,” said Kirinyaga governor aspirant Martha Karua at the second annual devolution conference in Kisumu.

Other governors like Nairobi’s Evans Kidero, Isaac Ruto (Bomet), Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo), and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) have been threatened with, but survived, bids to impeach them by MCAs.

While MCAs in the affected counties say they wanted to stem gross misconduct and violation of the Constitution by their governors, there have been allegations that behind the impeachment drives is a shameful racket of extortionists.

With more than Sh1 trillion devolved to the 47 counties, and with MCAs having what has become the sole powers to appropriate its use, the seat could only get more lucrative.

Former Transition Authority chairman Kinuthia Wamwangi said: “There are many complaints against MCAs. The question here is: Who will oversee the overseer?” he asked.

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