Money crunch leaves broke Parliament without power

The cash crunch facing Parliament has taken a turn for the worse after various operations and services ground to a halt due to massive pending bills.

Yesterday, it emerged that the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) was grappling with how to raise money to pay staff salaries for August and September, settle service providers’ bills and ensure smooth operations of various committees.

According to sources within Parliament, some service providers have given PSC an ultimatum to settle long-standing bills, failure to which they would withdraw their services. Members of Parliament have also not been spared as they have not been paid their committee allowances since August.

Last month, members of two committees attending sittings at the coastal town of Mombasa were forced to return to Nairobi after they were informed there was no money to cater for their needs. So serious has been the problem that the entire Parliament had been without electricity since Friday, due to delays in settling bills with Kenya Power.

The embarrassing situation might catch up with Parliament as it today hosts Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, who is slotted to address a joint sitting of the two Houses.

Following the power cut, parliamentary staff were forced to look for alternative ways of getting services, including access to washrooms. Some shared washrooms within the precincts of Parliament remained locked yesterday due to lack of adequate water as per notices that were pinned on doors.

Wi-fi services that are essential for parliamentary communication sections had also been disconnected for non-payment, while photocopying services were not available forcing members of staff to seek for them elsewhere.

It was also understood that suppliers of various services such as catering, bottled water and toiletries were yet to be paid.

Members of staff, who spoke to the People Daily in confidence, said the cash problems facing Parliament are so bad that lower cadre staff have been forced to look for other sources of income to sustain them.

Personal assistants as well as MPs’ guards too have also not been spared. Remarked a member of staff: “You people are surprised because of electricity? What about us who have not been paid? We are still waiting, this problem is very serious.”

Parliament is also facing fuel shortage and some of the drivers of high ranking officials were forced to use private means to ferry their bosses for duty. So serious is the situation that it took the Head of Public Service and Chief of Staff Joseph Kinyua, who was appearing before the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to order power to be restored yesterday.

Kinyua notified members he had actually called Kenya Power asking them to have the lights restored after it emerged that the committee had resorted to using recorders to capture its proceedings in the Hansard instead of the normal live recording. Said Kinyua: “You should actually thank me that we have the lights back.

I am the one who called the Kenya Power people.” According to a statement of actual revenues and net exchequer issues as at August 31, the National Assembly had not been allocated any money out of its recurrent budget of Sh15.2 billion meant for salaries of MPs and its employees and procurement of goods and services.

Of these, over Sh9 billion was to go into remuneration while Sh5 billion was to be used for goods and services, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office.

PSC, which caters for the Senate affairs and general administration and support services had been allocated Sh2.2 billion out of its recurrent budget of Sh8.9 billion, according to the statement published in the Kenya Gazette on September 25.

The National Treasury was also yet to disburse money for both recurrent and development expenditure to several counties, a move that has led to an outcry from the Council of Governors. Most development votes both at the national and county levels remain unattended to.

When he appeared before the PAC last week, Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury Henry Rotich admitted that disbursing money to the various ministries and State entities, including Parliament and the Judiciary, had been a challenge in the first quarter of any financial year.

Rotich said this year’s delays are the result of higher foreign exchange rates as well as challenges the government is facing in raising revenue locally though he also blamed late requisition.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who is also the PSC chairman, had also told the People Daily that the cash flow problems had been addressed. Muturi spoke after we exclusively revealed how Parliament was facing a cash crunch due to lack of adequate funds.