Kenya: Ward Reps Up in Arms Over Pay Delay Amid Assembly Turf Wars

Members of the Nairobi County Assembly and staff have now gone for two months without salaries as a supremacy battle between Speaker Beatrice Elachi and Clerk Jacob Ngwele for control of the assembly's finances continues.

The MCAs and staff are yet to receive both April and May salaries as a result of a standoff between the Speaker and the Clerk over approval of the release of the funds.

The 122 ward representatives, 150 assembly employees and over 300 ward staff are entitled to Sh60 million as salary package every month.

Woodley MCA Abraham Njihia said they are yet to get their salaries for two months because of the lingering row.

"There is a time Ngwele signed the release of the funds but the Speaker refused to approve the same because of the row between them," said Mr Njihia.

Mr Njihia's assertions were echoed by Eastleigh North MCA Osman Adow who said it has been tough going without salary for two months amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Some of our residents in the wards depend on the little we give them as MCAs and now we are stranded with empty pockets," said Mr Adow.

Roysambu MCA Peter Warutere blamed the delay on the office of the speaker.

"We have not been paid salaries for two months now. Same to the assembly staff who are also stranded. We know the problem is the office of the Speaker and she knows what ought to be done," said Mr Warutere.

On his part, Nairobi County Finance Executive Allan Igambi absolved the Executive from any blame.

"As the Executive, we did our part and processed the assembly salaries. If there is any delay whatsoever then the Speaker should be in a position to clarify," said Mr Igambi.

Last month, Mr Igambi had also blamed the assembly for the delayed payment of the salaries, saying the County Treasury had done its part by ensuring that the payroll had been processed.

Speaker Elachi could not be reached for comment. She did not respond to messages to her phone seeking her opinion on the matter.

However, last month she said she would not comment on the issue as it is an administrative matter to be canvassed internally.

Reached for comment, Mr Ngwele said the problem was a result of the tussle over the mandate of the assembly's account at Central Bank of Kenya, as there has been a move to remove him as a signatory of the assembly's accounts.

He alleged that Ms Elachi was using the salaries stalemate to remove him as the person who is authorised to approve any expense by the assembly by the virtue of being the Clerk, despite a court order declaring him the assembly's substantive clerk.

"The salaries should be paid by end month as we always close the payroll by 20th of every month to give us time to request for the money. By Friday, nothing had been done," said Mr Ngwele.

The problems started when the Executive restored Mr Ngwele as the assembly's Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) signatory and also as the signatory to the assembly's account at Central Bank in April.

This followed an advisory by the Solicitor General who said Mr Ngwele is the substantive clerk of the assembly as per a ruling by Employment and Labour Relations court, a move that rubbed the Speaker up the wrong way.

The assembly's Board, chaired by Ms Elachi, has always maintained that Mr Ngwele was a "stranger" at the assembly after a report was adopted by the House, revoking his name as the holder of the clerk's office despite the court order.

Speaker Elachi and Mr Ngwele do not see eye-to-eye with the two involved in a protracted war that began in early 2018.

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