POWER PLAY

'Big man' out to control City Hall blamed for Elachi-Ngwele feuds

It's all about who pulls strings in the multibillion-shilling county budget

In Summary
  • The powerful individual wants Ngwele at the helm so he can use him to ground the five-month-old Nairobi Metropolitan Services.
  • Leader of Minority Peter Imwatok blames politicians out to have a friend take over the assembly for the shenanigans over who the clerk is.
Nairobi county assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi and Clerk Jacob Ngwele at a meeting in City Hall in 2018.
HAPPIER DAYS: Nairobi county assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi and Clerk Jacob Ngwele at a meeting in City Hall in 2018.
Image: COURTESY

Jacob Ngwele is a man in the eye of the storm. Some members of the Nairobi county assembly do not want him as the clerk. Speaker Beatrice Elachi certainly does not want him.

But a powerful individual said to pull strings at City Hall wants him to be in charge of the county assembly as the clerk. So does a number of MCAs.

The powerful individual wants Ngwele at the helm so that he can use him to ground the five-month-old Nairobi Metropolitan Services.

The county assembly clerk is the accounting officer with the overall say on how the assembly budget is spent. This year, the budget is Sh2.5 billion, Sh1.4 billion of it recurrent and the rest development.

The power struggle between Elachi and Ngwele started way back in 2018. The speaker maintains the clerk was irregularly appointed. He was kicked out in November last year only for him to be reinstated mid this year. 

“We will not allow him back because we have already completed the recruitment process for his replacement,” Elachi said, shortly after Ngwele took over the office.

The Nairobi County Assembly and Service Board confirmed Ngwele's appointment in June 2014 citing a letter from the Transition Authority, a body corporate established in 2012 to provide a framework for transition from local government to devolved government.

Ngwele's reinstatement last month has since been suspended after a court ordered him to step aside. Deputy clerk  Pauline Akuku is now in charge.

Elachi's position on Ngwele's appointment is guided by a report of the county assembly ad hoc committee indicating that the appointment was irregular and did not conform to the legal framework as outlined in the County Assembly Services Act.

The Kabiro Mbugua-led committee was formed on November 7, last year, to investigate the circumstances in which Ngwele was employed. Its findings compelled the County Assembly Service Board (CASB) to revoke the appointment

Ngwele has since sued the speaker and CASB for alleged violation and contravention of his fundamental rights and freedoms. Judge Maureen Onyango will make a ruling on October 16.

Ngwele and interdicted deputy clerk Adah Onyango in the meantime sought court orders to quash the appointment of Akuku as the acting clerk. But the petition was been declined.

Ngwele was seconded to the county assembly from Parliament where he was the principal legal counsel. He was to serve for one year and 10 months between March 2013 and December 2014.

“According to Public Service Commission guidelines on secondment, he was supposed to return to parent organisation upon expiry of the term and was at liberty to compete for position of clerk if any advertisement was to be placed by CASB, which was not the case,” the ad hoc committee report stated.

“The CASB did not competitively conduct a recruitment process for the position of the clerk. The position was not advertised and there was no list of applicants, no shortlisted persons and no interviews,” it said.

“Recruitment is a process and not an event that can be concluded in one day as evidenced in the CASB minutes and the confirmation letter for Ngwele. The speed at which the exercise occurred raises suspicion.”

The report said there were no offer and appointment letters as required under the human resource practices.

It recommended that Ngwele be surcharged for benefits he drew from the assembly while serving irregularly as substantive clerk and also as an employee of Parliament between June 10, 2014 and August 1, 2017 when he resigned from Parliament.

Last week, the anti-graft agency, which had been asked by the assembly to investigate his appointment, said he must refund Sh1.2 m allowances paid to him without the approval of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

Leader of Minority Peter Imwatok blames politicians out to have a friend take over the assembly for the shenanigans over who is the clerk.

Insiders who did not want to be named said the  assembly wars are meant to cripple the NMS, and eventually the revocation of the Deed of Transfer signed by the governor and the National Government.  

Under the deal, City Hall surrendered four key functions - health services, transport, planning and development and public works and utilities - to the National Government. 

The insiders said influential individuals want the assembly leadership changed including the removal of the speaker, deputy speaker and both Majority and Minority leaders as well as the Minority Whip.

Elachi sees Sonko's hand in Ngwele’s concerted efforts to keep the clerk's job "to safeguard his interests and control the multibillion-shilling county government and frustrate the NMS.

“This is the governor’s strategy to ensure that he has people who are loyal. Ngwele had earlier ensured that the motion of impeachment against the governor was stopped in court. He went against the assembly and said in court that he had not verified the signatures,” Elachi said.

Last week, acting clerk Akuku told Elachi to stay put as there was no motion of impeachment forwarded to her office.

“The law requires that a notice of motion must be submitted to the office of the clerk to confirm or verify whether it meets the threshold of the speaker from office. The office of the clerk has never received such notice and neither has any been laid at the floor of the assembly,” Akuku said.

 

- mwaniki fm