County assemblies’ forum says Treasury has no powers to limit foreign trips

By: PATRICK LANGAT

Members of county assemblies have questioned the legality of a directive by the National Treasury to cut their foreign trips.

Ward representatives said Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has no powers to do so.

Last week, the CS ordered a stop to “unnecessary trips” for all government officials, including in the counties, in a bid to save at least Sh4 billion.

But the County Assemblies Forum, a lobby group for the MCAs, Monday said that neither Mr Rotich nor the Devolution ministry have the power to decide whether or not a trip is necessary or unnecessary for them.

“We would like to know what law the Ministry of Devolution plans to use to enforce the directive,” the forum’s secretary-general Albert Kochei told the Nation Monday.

He said the forum supports the austerity measures by the government, adding that ward reps are already using a formula agreed on for foreign trips.

Mr Kochei said the formula was agreed on during a meeting early this year in Mombasa organised by the Foreign Affairs ministry.

“That meeting unanimously agreed that every international trip by ward reps should have not more than seven people. That is what we have been doing,” he said.

QUESTIONED ORDER

Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando last week also questioned the order.

“How will this directive be implemented as county governments and the national government are distinct constitutional organs with autonomous programmes?

“This is a populist stunt intended to grab public attention rather than make any meaningful impact on the budget,” Mr Kabando wrote in the Sunday Nation.

According to the office of the Auditor-General, the 47 county assemblies spent a total Sh3.71 billion on foreign and domestic travel in the last financial year and have budgeted Sh3.6 billion this year for mileage expenses.

Mr Kochei said ward reps have been denied three trips because the Devolution ministry declared them “unnecessary”.

“The forum is going to take a formal stand once we get the circular on this matter,” said Mr Kochei who is the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Assembly Speaker.

“MCAs must ensure the trips are committee-based, that the assembly clerk has confirmed availability of cash. A report should be tabled within 14 days after the trip,” he said.

Trips by MCAs are financed by the county budget.

The ward reps feel the directive might lead to micromanagement.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION