DILEMMA

County tenants seek clarity from assembly on Sonko rent waiver

The rent waiver is among the latest fronts in the Sonko-Badi verbal spat

In Summary

• On October 23, Sonko gave a six-month rent waiver extension for the tenants, citing Covid-19 financial challenges.
• But Badi says Sonko has no authority to grant rent waivers since housing is one of the functions transferred to the National Government.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko(centre) and Nairobi Metropolitan Service Director General Mohammed Badi at State House on June 5, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko(centre) and Nairobi Metropolitan Service Director General Mohammed Badi at State House on June 5, 2020
Image: MAUREEN KINYANJUI

To pay rent or not to pay is the dilemma that city county tenants face as Governor Mike Sonko's administration tussles with the Nairobi Metropolitan Services over rent waiver.

On Tuesday, the tenants, through Umoja Old Ngara Welfare Association, New Ngara Estate Welfare Association and Old Council Estate Association, petitioned the county assembly to give clarity on the matter.

Specifically, they want to know which office is legally supposed to grant waivers given that the Kenya Revenue Authority was, after the creation of the NMS, appointed the revenue collector for the county government.

The petition was presented by Ngara MCA Chege Mwaura.

On October 23, Sonko gave a six-month rent waiver extension for the tenants, citing Covid-19 financial challenges.

He accused KRA and NMS of harassing county tenants over rent arrears despite the suffering wrought upon them by Covid-19. He subsequently extended the six-month waiver he had earlier granted.

Early this month, NMS director-general Mohammed Badi said Sonko has no authority to grant rent waivers since housing is one of the four core functions transferred to the national government.

He reminded the governor that housing fell under his mandate.

“It (waiver) is not legitimate because it is a transferred function. He has absolutely no authority to waive. After all, the Kenya Revenue Authority is the one collecting revenue, not the governor,” Badi said.

Section 7 of the Nairobi City County Waiver Administration Act, 2013 says every waiver shall be reported to the County Assembly and published in the gazette notice not more than 14 days after it is granted.

The three tenants' associations want the county assembly to ensure that the procedures for granting waivers such as publication of intention and invitation for public comments are made for the sake of accountability and transparency.

They said they are aware of the transfer of some functions from the county government to the national government under the NMS and that the KRA is  tasked to collect revenue on behalf of the county government.

“We are aware that Article 210 of the Constitution 2010 provides that there should be openness and accountability including public participation in financial matters,” their petition to the county assembly states.

The tenants said they had been unfailingly paying land rates and rent to the county government for years. They also pay for general maintenance of the  houses, garbage collection, drainage and sewerage unblocking.

“The spirit of Articles 118 and 201 (a) requires that the county government undertakes public participation before enacting and implementing any policy, regulations or laws,” the petition says.

The associations urged the county assembly to ensure that the waivers conform with the Nairobi City County Waiver Administration Act of 2013 and if not, offer directions with timelines on the same.

Section 6 of the Nairobi City County Waiver Administration Act, 2013 calls for publication of intentions for any waiver and invites the public to comment on the same.