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Economy

Counties to lose Sh1.9bn in annual gender top-up cost

Siaya County Assembly in session. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Siaya County Assembly in session. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Taxpayers will once again foot an extra wage bill of Sh1.98 billion annually as salaries and allowances of nominated county assembly members after Kenyans failed to elect the requisite number of female ward representatives in the August 8 General Election.

An extra 559 female ward legislators have been published by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) after none of the 47 county assemblies attained the constitutional gender ratio that no more than two-thirds of elective or appointive bodies shall be made up of members from the same gender.

Kenyans elected a paltry 96 women as members of county assemblies out of the total 1,450 wards, according to data from the IEBC.

The National Gender and Equality Commission decried the high price of pampering the additional gender top-up to the county assemblies, saying had Kenyans chosen women at the ballot, the cash would have been channelled to fund other development projects.

“It is important to note that if Kenyans elected women, there would be no need to create extra seats,” said National Gender and Equality Commission chairperson Winfred Lichuma.

In total, taxpayers will cough Sh9.91 billion to remunerate the special gender seats for the entire five-year term of the new county assemblies due to be sworn next month.

Nairobi County tops the list with 34 extra nominated women ward representatives followed by Kiambu (28), Kakamega (25), Kisii (20), with Meru and Nakuru getting 19 additional female county assembly members each.

A dozen counties namely Embu, Garissa, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kirinyaga, Mandera, Narok, Samburu, Taita Taveta, Turkana, Wajir, and West Pokot did not elect a single woman to the regional assemblies – hence will collectively nominate 128 women.

Incoming ward representatives will earn a monthly basic pay of Sh144,375, according to data from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

Unlike the ambiguity with regard to Kenya’s bicameral parliament, the Constitution expressly provides that county legislatures must nominate extra women to meet the gender requirement.

“A county assembly consists of the number of special seat members necessary to ensure that no more than two thirds of the membership of the assembly is of the same gender,” states Article 177(1b) of the Constitution.

SRC has limited committee sessions to 16 per month meaning MCAs can draw a maximum sitting allowance of Sh48,000 per month at the rate of Sh3,000 per sitting. Those who chair such committees earn Sh5,000 per session, capped at Sh80,000 monthly.

The cost of to keep this group of gender top-up ward representatives in office will even be higher if benefits such as medical cover for family and spouse, personal accident cover, cheap car loans, and low-cost mortgages are factored in.

County assembly members get a car loan of Sh2 million and a mortgage of Sh3 million, both charged a concessional interest rate of three per cent.

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