The government has been paying almost a million shillings in rent for the residence of Kenya's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Macharia Kamau, a Parliamentary report has said.
Shortly before the Tenth Parliament dissolved on January 14, the immediate former Foreign Affairs committee raised concerns in a report it tabled after investigating the Kenya mission in New York. The report was however not debated in Parliament due to a shortage of time.
The Committee said Kamau declined to stay in the mission's official residence and decided to rent an apartment in New York which is costing taxpayers US$9,835 (approximately Sh855,645) per month.
"Since the residence was built to the standards of a presidential suite and is in a good location, there was no justification as to why such a huge residential building could be abandoned by the Permanent Representative. At least he would have occupied part of the building awaiting renovations," the six member Defence and Foreign relations committee chaired by Adan Keynan said in the report written after he and six MPs went to New York to investigate the issue.
The committee said its members were convinced that Kamau's "ego' may have driven him to renting such an expensive apartment and accused him of not having the 'passion' to protect wastage of public funds.
But Kamau has denied the claims and insisted that his decision to stay in a flat near the UN was because of the logistical complications of living far away in the Bronx, where the official residence is currently located. The decision not to take up residence in the Bronx, he said, was not unilateral but done in consultation with Nairobi.
"It is sad and unfortunate that honorable members of parliament and ranking officials of a statutory committee in the august house would choose to speculate on matters of a administrative and bureaucratic character, related to a sensitive and strategic mission, through the media and do so with total contempt for established channels of consultation on such matters and with complete disregards to the character and well-being of dedicated envoys and civil servant diplomats.
"In my mind this loud, untempered and very public assault on my professional work was calibrated to be career terminating and worse, cause personal injury and pain; indeed it was a thinly veiled, malicious and contemptible ploy that reflects shallow vendetta and political opportunism," said the Kamau.
The committee said the rent was already causing a strain on the limited resources allocated to the mission. Alluding to the possibility that Kamau may have leased the apartment in contravention of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act as well as Article 201 (d) of the constitution, the report recommended further investigations.
But Kamua also denied suggestions that he may have rented out the palatial residence. "For the record the official residence in the Bronx is not abandoned, it is maintained by the housekeeper who lives in the staff quarters with his wife and his three small children. They look after the premises and ensure that is kept within New York City code and is also not vandalized. To suggest anything otherwise is simply mischief and innuendo," said Kamau
According to the New York Habitat official website, a two bedroom apartment in downtown New York cost's an average US$2,500 (Sh217,500) to US$3,500 (Sh304,500) per month while a three bedroom apartment may rent for as much as US$6,000 (Sh522,000) and above.
Rent for a two bedroom apartment in mid-town New York, which is considered the most expensive area, costs between US$3,700 (Sh321,900) and US$6,000 (522,000) with rent for a three bedroom apartment costing US$8,000 (Sh696,000) and above. If fitted with an elevator, the monthly rent for a three bedroom apartment is US$12,000 (Sh1 million) and above.
Rents in New York's Upper East side and Upper west side, range between US$3,000 (Sh261,000) and US$6,000 (Sh522,000) for a two bedroom apartment and US$7,000 (Sh609,000) and above for a three bedroom apartment.
*This article has been corrected