The MCA’s post has emerged among the powerful ones under devolution, given the regional lawmakers play an oversight role over billions disbursed to counties, which makes the former councillor’s post in the past local authorities pale in comparison.
This year, Sh301 billion including conditional grants has been allocated to the 47 counties, a huge allocation placed under the oversight of the country’s 2,222 MCAs across the regional parliaments.
Of the number, 1,450 are elected and 772 nominated to the county assemblies that also approve county budgets and make laws to be enforced by county governments.
On average, an MCA takes home Sh250,000 per month, which translates to a total of about half a billion in salaries every month. This is more than the money allocated to an average government department.
The perks arose out of a deal hammered out with the Office of the Controller of Budget in 2013, allowing MCAs higher salaries and allowances, including mortgages, car grants, ward offices and a budget for hiring drivers, bodyguards and secretaries.
MCAs have been arguing that by virtue of their positions as elected representatives, they are entitled to the privileges, which takes them miles away from former councillors, some of who live in poverty today.
Other than the huge perks, MCAs have pushed for ward development funds. In some counties, governors have caved in to pressure and awarded each member the control of Sh10 million for grassroots development projects.
Their influence in approval of budgets, passage of laws and sanctions, for instance in the impeachment of top county officials, means that governors must avoid confrontations with them.
“A county assembly may make any laws that are necessary for, or incidental to, the effective performance of the functions and exercise of the powers of the county government under the Fourth Schedule,” reads Article 185 Sub Section 2 of the Constitution.
MCAs approve the budget and expenditure of the county government, approve its borrowing and vet and approve nominees for appointment to county public offices.
Due to the huge wage burden, scrapping the seat of MCA was one of the proposals under various referendum initiatives to reduce the country’s ballooning wage bill.
The Punguza Mzigo initiative, spearheaded by Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) proposed that the number of MCAs be reduced alongside those of governors and senators.
Just before the Constitutional Implementation Commission (CIC) would up its mandate, it had also proposed that the number of the country’ wards be reduced from the current 1,450 to 750 to cut down on the wage bill. Indeed, the number of MCAs outnumber the total number of doctors in the country, and are more than the total number of teachers in Turkana County.
Because of their role in amending the Constitution through popular initiative — the support of at least 24 counties is a prerequisite — the Opposition had promised goodies for MCAs in their unsuccessful referendum quest.
Earlier this year, Treasury expressed concern over the huge spending by MCAs and proposed curbs on spending.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich proposed a cap of 7 per cent spending on funds allocated to their county every financial year. MCAs have often come under fire for making unnecessary trips abroad under the guise of ‘learning from other countries.’
They have been demanding that they be referred to as ‘Honourable MCAs’ in recognition of their position in the country’s elective politics.
So influential is the position that Nominated MP Godliver Omondi has already announced her intention to run for an MCA position in the next General Election. The seat has also attracted many professionals, in an indication of gruelling political battles with incumbents in the 2017 race.
Here are some of the homes built by MCAs