A Bungoma County Aseembly Committee in Session, Photo: Erick Nakitare

Analysed: The huge Gaps in MCA Sitting Allowances

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The Budget Implementation report by the Controller of Budget (CoB) for the financial year 2017/2018 reveals massive differences and massive under-expenditure in sitting allowances for Members of County Assemblies. Both raise serious questions on what informs the inclusion of the huge amounts in the budgets and where the differences stem from. The media can follow up on these issues in pursuit of in-depth explanations. We provide you with the example of such a follow-up on the case of Bungoma. And there will be more articles to follow!

The total Amoung – and the Underxpenditure

A total of 12 County Assemblies spent less than 50 percent of their budgeted amounts during the financial year 1017/2018, the Controller of Budget wrote. Overall, the County Assemblies spent 1.46 billion of the approved 2.34 billion representing 62.3 percent.

The Cases of Bungoma, Migori, Turkana Counties

The counties with the poorest absorption were Bungoma and Migori: The report shows Bungoma County Assembly only used 35,811,747 out of the total budgeted amount of 190,220,970 during the period. Turkana County representatives on the other hand were paid a total of Sh. 5,650,000 against a budgetary allocation of Sh. 38,438,400 with their Migori counterparts receiving a total of Sh 36, 493,900 out the total budgeted amount ofSh. 205,163,472 (see table in CoB-Report linked below).

What “Sitting Allowances” meant in Bungoma

So what is the story behind the big gap between budgeted amount and actual expenditure on the example of Bungoma? An inquiry from the budget office at Bungoma County Assembly shows that the the budgeted Sh. 190,220,970 represents a block budget figure that was meant for several different kind of expenses:

  • “house allowance” – (money paid as part of salary for employees who were not allocated houses by their employer),
  • “overtime allowance”– (money paid for the hours worked outside the agreed contract time),
  • “top-up allowance” – (money paid out to employees on secondment from another government department),
  • “responsibility allowance” – (money paid out to leaders of the County Assembly like the Majority Leader, Minority Leader and whips for the extra responsibilities that come with their positions),
  • “transport allowance” – (money paid to an employee  to cater for transport from their home to the work station) ,
  • “leave allowance for staff” – (money paid out  to employees to enable them travel out of their work station while on leave),
  • “administrative allowance” – (money paid out to cater for airtime allowance for state officers- Speaker and MCAs),
  • “National Assembly Attendance Allowance” (which is the technical term for the sitting allowance for MCAs) and
  • employee contribution to staff pension scheme.

Boiled down in two Steps

The number of nine different votes seems to explain what made the allocation in the initial budget so high. The actual allocation for the sitting allowance – according to Bungoma County Assembly Budget Office – was Sh. 116,396,800. And it was reduced to 69,088,061 during the last supplementary budget. (This amount is only for sitting allowances and excludes the other aforementioned allowances).

Refer to the linked supplementary budget for Bungoma County

Sources for following up

A journalist can verify this information with the Controller of Budget office at the County level and perhaps find out what was reported by the office. If the Controller of Budget Office is uncooperative on this, the County Assembly Budget Office can be of great help in giving you the final Supplementary budget. The Supplementary budget will indicate the final expenditure per item after increases and decreases during the financial year.

The Plans for Bungoma 2018/2019

Interesting to note: Bungoma County Assembly has allocated only 48,768,000 as sitting allowance for MCA for the financial year 2018/2019 which is only little more than a quarter compared to what was budgeted the previous year.

Find out in your counties how much money has been allocated compared to the actual expenditure of last year as contained in the Controller of Budget report. Further follow up on the reasons for the increase or reduction.

The information is contained in the latest CoB report on County expenditure. See also our earlier news about this.

Questions a media report can tackle
  1. How are the budgets for MCAS sitting allowances arrived at?
  2. How does the number of MCAS in a particular county correspond with the allocated amount? For instance, Nairobi County Assembly with 128 MCAs has budgeted Sh.112,471,400 to cater for their Sitting allowance while Migori County with 58 MCAs has allocated them Sh 205,163,472. Nyeri County Assembly with 45 MCAs has allocated them sh46,800,000 while Wajir County Assembly with 46 MCAs has a budgetary allocation of Sh26,000,000.- The question is why does the allocation not correspond with the number of MCAs. The CoB report has a table that shows the number of MCAs in each County Assembly. It also has the annual average that was paid to each MCA. But there are individual MCAs who earned less or more than the average based on their individual Sitting records.
  3. What happens to the money that is not spent on a certain vote at the end of a financial year? For instance, in Bungoma Sh 7, 308,739 was reduced from the allocation for County Assembly Sitting allowance. The money reduced was taken to committees, boards and conferences – to enable MCAs hold external meetings and be paid perdiem, Sh. 7,022,000 was paid out as travel allowance and Sh. 11,123,200 was reallocated to training expenses. Sh. 1,992,000 was added to publishing and printing services while a whooping Sh. 4,101,200 was directed towards facilitating county Assembly games and sports activities.
  4. What are the allocations for MCAs sitting allowances this financial year?
  5. How much money have various counties allocated for sitting allowance as compared to what they spent last year? The huge difference is as a result of money being hidden in sitting allowances so that the Controller of Budget doesn’t question for the sake of budget approval. The money is then transferred to other non-essential activities through supplementary budgets.
Do not overlook the Supplementary Budget

Some County Departments hide money in programmes only for the same to be reallocated via supplementary budgets. Find out the exact programmes and projects where these monies are taken during supplementary budgets. They can make interesting media articles.

More Background

The Salaries and Remunerations Commission has set 32 sittings as the maximum payable to an MCA in a given month. Refer to Kenya gazette notice on allowances. I have attached it here for ease of reference.

Out of the 32 monthly sittings, 16 are plenary sessions in the County Assembly and the remaining 16 are committee sittings. This does not include external committee retreats for writing reports which are paid outside the payroll.

A chair of a County Assembly Committee   according to the Salaries and Renumeration Commission is supposed to earn  5000 in sitting allowance per session, while an ordinary member earns 3000.

Some County Assemblies have been paying Chair persons of committees an allowance of Sh. 5,000 even in meetings where they are just members. Some have been paid money for committees they did not chair.

For a member to qualify for payment of a sitting allowance there must be evidence of attendance of the said meeting in the form of minutes, reports and attendance schedules.

In the past, Some County Assemblies have paid MCAs the maximum allowances they are entitled to without computing the actual sitting. (Refer to the 2013/2014 Auditor General reports.) There is a likelihood that this could still be happening in some County Assemblies going by the huge disparities in the expenditures.

From the spreadsheet contained in the CoB-report, you can compare how various County Assemblies paid out sitting allowances.

REPORT BY ERICK NAKITARE, FOR ROGGKENYA.

ATTACHMENTS:

  1. The COB report in full (pdf)
  2. The CoB report in part (table with sitting allowances)
  3. Rules of the SRC for expenses, Kenya Gazette Vol.CXIX-No_.89
  4. Bungoma County final supplementary budget
  5. Bungoma County Budget for FY2018/19