By Kiarie Njoroge
The Nairobi County Assembly has passed only two Bills in the past 14 months, raising concerns about the value taxpayers are getting for the Sh1 billion the county government spent on its members during the same period.
The county legislature, which has been paralysed by constant squabbling between the ward representatives and the executive, now stands out as one of the least performing, putting at risk the city government’s ability to collect revenue and execute its budget plans.
The poor legislative record has seen the assembly fail to pass key Bills, including one intended to regulate use of plastic bags, garbage collection and improve land rates collection.
Assembly speaker Alex ole Magelo told the Business Daily that members of the county assembly (MCAs) had become disillusioned by failure to implement key Bills and to act on motions they have passed, including one providing for the establishment of a Ward Development Fund (WDF).
“The most sickening thing is that Bills and motions approved by the assembly (are not implemented) and my members are not happy with the executive at all,” Mr Magelo said.
He reckons that the MCAs are frustrated by their failure to impact the lives of those who elected them despite many attempts to do so through established channels such as the passing of motions in the House.
“We cannot even stop people from constructing buildings on a road reserves because the executive does not respond to such actions,” he said.
The county executive is the legally mandated body to implement the laws and motions passed by the assembly.
Bills become by-laws once they are signed by the governor while motions are suggestions that urge the executive to act or expedite action on an issue of importance but are, however, not legally binding.
Karura representative Kamau Thuo gave the example of a motion he tabled in the House urging the executive to compel Ridgeways Mall to provide an extra entrance to ease congestion along Kiambu Road but which has never been implemented.
In the first year of operations ending June 2014, the county assembly passed 10 Bills but this has slackened in the second year, pushing Nairobi to the bottom end of legislative performance.
Nakuru, Meru, Machakos and Bomet are currently topping the list of productivity, having passed more than 10 Bills last year.
“When members came in after the 2013 election, they were motivated and had a lot of plans, leading to the passing of many Bills in the first year,” said Zulfa Hakim, an MCA.
“But every time a motion or Bill is passed, nothing happens and the common excuse (from executive) is that there is no money to act, making our efforts futile.”
Mr Magelo said that failure to implement the WDF motion, which was passed early last year, is behind the paralysis.
The fund, which is styled on the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), is supposed to allocate Sh20 million to each of the 85 wards every year. It has, however, been declared illegal by the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) and the Controller of Budget’s office, making it impossible for the governor to act on it.
The Nairobi MCAs have, however, ignored the warnings by the constitutional offices and allocated funds in every budget since the 2013/14 fiscal year, despite the executive’s failure to honour it.
The bad blood between the MCAs and the executive has reduced the Nairobi assembly to a hollow institution where members only walk in to sign the attendance list to earn allowances.
A sitting hardly lasts one hour before it is adjourned for lack of quorum, Mr Magelo said.
Large parts of the sittings are held without quorums and attempts have been made to pass motions without the requisite numbers set by the standing orders (the House rules).
The assembly has 127 members, but it rarely musters the 43 members required to constitute a quorum.
The standoff between the assembly and the executive last year saw the Finance Bill 2014 fail to pass as members demanded implementation of the WDF in return.
READ: Nairobi MCAs demand perks to pass Finance Bill
The drop in the number of Bills passed has, however, not dampened the legislators’ earnings with the Controller of Budget’s report showing the assembly spent Sh963 million during the nine-month period ending March 2015.
The bulk of this amount was spent on MCAs’ salaries, travel and sitting allowances for both plenary and committees.
The Nairobi City County Petition to County Assembly (Procedure) Bill which is yet to be assented to sets out the steps that the county residents should take have the assembly debate an issue that they want addressed.
Also in the list of stalled legislation is the Appropriation Act 2015, which is necessary to authorise the county to spend money.
Bills introduced in the period beginning June 2014 but have since died natural deaths at the end of the session in December and were re-introduced afresh this year includes the Nairobi County Valuation and Rating Bill, 2015.
This Bill de-links payment of land rates from land ownership, which could see thousands of property owners, especially in Eastlands, who have no title deeds start paying the fee. This could potentially raise the amount collected in rates by billions of shillings.
Also in limbo is the Nairobi City County Solid Waste Management Bill which proposed an environmental levy to be used in collection of garbage and the Nairobi City County Regularisation of Developments Bill seeking to help owners of houses built without permits to make fresh applications.
Although hundreds of building owners have expressed willingness to do so, in what will net the county over Sh1 billion, failure to pass the law means that the safety of the buildings remains unknown.
Another pending law is one to establish an emergency fund and streamline the services of fire and rescue in the county.