NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 12 – There was acrimony on the last day of an induction seminar for Members of Parliament, after some legislators claimed there is a plot to undermine their authority in managing and running the Constituency Development Funds (CDF).
The legislators attending an induction seminar at the Safari Park hotel are now planning amendments to the CDF Act to ensure they control the funds.
They say the requirement by the Act to have a fund manager and constituents elected members of the CDF committees is a ploy to undermine their authority.
Thika MP Alice Nganga, Nyaribari Chache MP Chris Bichage and Gwassi MP John Mbadi led the rebellion after the MPs were taken through the CDF law by staff from the National CDF Board.
“The Kenyans who elected me don’t come to this board demanding for education bursaries, money to repair health centres… they know Alice is the one we elected and they don’t want to hear anything else,” he said.
Members of Parliament have until May 13 to organise the election of their Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committees which will oversee projects to be prioritised in their areas.
According to the amended CDF Act 2013, the MPs should convene open public meetings of registered voters in their constituencies in each of the elective wards within the first 40 days after the swearing-in ceremony.
The committees shall have a maximum 10 members and half of them should be elected by the public.
The MPs who were sworn in on two weeks ago are supposed to notify residents within wards in their constituencies of the meeting that shall carry out the elections.
Speaker Justin Muturi advised those who were annoyed with the CDF law to propose amendments, as emotions run high on the management of CDF.
“If you feel so strongly about this, you have the power to do something about it because this law is a creature of this House, you can make it better,” Muturi advised.
The CDF Act 2013 redefines the role of MPs in line with the Constitution and allows them to participate merely in mobilising community members for project identification.
This means MPs can no longer allocate projects to reward their cronies and none can make decisions arbitrarily regarding the usage of funds.
Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurweini) and Asman Kamama (Baringo East) blamed the civil society for the trying to water down the role of the National Assembly.
“We must assert ourselves because the civil society and our opponents the ones we defeated in the last elections are working to make parliament powerless,” said Kabando.
Kajiado East MP Peris Tobiko said: “I have served in key public institutions that deal with public funds like NSSF. I can tell you that having several of management levels only leads to more bureaucracy when will we ever deliver to the wananchi.”
Leader of Majority designate Aden Duale (Garissa Town) said he will lobby MPs to amend the Act.
Administration of the fund has now been effectively transferred to a board official who will act as the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) holder and be accountable for any loss or embezzlement of the money.
MPs will henceforth sit on CDF committees as ex-officio members exercising only the oversight role on projects.
Mathioya MP Clement Wambugu advised the MPs to avoid involving themselves in the running of the fund.
“I have been here for two terms now, and I can tell those who are fighting for this, particularly the first timers… don’t get involved in this thing. Let someone else do it. It has been used against some of our former colleagues.”
Following the protests, the National CDF board has scheduled a retreat to be held next weekend in Naivasha.
CDF Chairman Jennifer Barasa said the MPs were within their rights to amend the Act but said the requirement came after Kenyans called for the curtailing of the power of MPs to the use of CDF because they have been ignored when it came to deciding on development priorities.
“Kenyans wanted a separation of power, in that the MP cannot be in charge of the fund use and also claim to oversight himself,” she said.
MPs were supposed to facilitate the election of boards that would oversee the identification of development projects, the bidding and procurement processes.
Unfortunately, some MPs picked their cronies to chair and constitute the boards, while others just misappropriated the cash.