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Counties

MCAs reject foreign travel guidelines in austerity bid

Charles Sunkuli
Devolution PS Charles Sunkuli (right) at a House session in July. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE 

Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) want the Ministry of Devolution to withdraw guidelines restricting their travel abroad, terming them unreasonable.

The call by the MCAs comes amid efforts to reduce wasteful spending in government and below target revenue collection.

County Assemblies Forum secretary-general Eric Wamumbi said the circular PS Charles Sunkuli issued was meant to curtail the MCAs’ foreign travel.

“County assemblies are not answerable to the Ministry of Devolution. The work of Sunkuli’s department is to ensure that devolution is working for the people. We will not comply with the guidelines issued,” he said.

Mr Wamumbi said the MCAs had not exceeded the expenditure ceilings the Commission on Revenue Allocation set and were operating within the allocations the county assemblies approved.

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The Council of Governors has also warned that they would not comply with the guidelines issued on October 5, which are aimed at reducing the recurrent expenditure.

This comes on the backdrop of public outcry over increased taxation to bridge the fiscal deficit and repay foreign loans.

Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo had warned that sitting and travel allowances gobbled by MCAs and county officials are taking a huge chunk of county governments’ funds.

According to her 2017/18 budget implementation report, counties incurred Sh7 billion on domestic and foreign travel in the first nine months of that fiscal year.

The circular demands MCAs get approvals ahead foreign travel, benefits of the tour to the county, invitation letters copied to the PS, total cost including visa fees, airfare and accommodation as well as a detailed report after trips

But according to Mr Wamumbi, ward representatives’ foreign travels are justified and meant to build capacity to ensure better legislation.

“The ministry is overstepping their mandate. MCAs are not clerks to sit down and write reports yet clerks document our activities and recommendations for implementation by the counties,” he said.

The devolved units, said Mr Wamumbi, are supporting the austerity measures proposed by President Kenyatta to reduce wasteful expenditure but added that MCAs’ travels should not be restricted.

According to Mr Sunkuli, the guidelines are meant to streamline and harmonise foreign travel across the public service.

The ministry’s circular indicated that all applications for travel must be accompanied by a statement of benefit to the respective county.

Before the Ministry of Devolution approves the travels, the counties will have to indicate whether the donor funds or government would meet the total cost of travel.

“All travel requests should be accompanied by copies of the approved work plan of the respective county department clearly indicating budget allocation,” read part of the circular.

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