BATTLE

Inside Sonko’s fight with Uhuru men over control of Nairobi's billions

Sonko embroiled in fight with NMS boss Badi and KRA's Mburu

In Summary

• The Star has established the war has been simmering for barely one month before boiling over in the bitter exchanges witnessed between Sonko and Badi early this week.

• Insiders also disclosed Sonko has accused the NMS boss of keeping him 'in the dark'  in the execution of the transfer of the functions.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka look on as Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa sign the agreement at State House, Nairobi on February 25, 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka look on as Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa sign the agreement at State House, Nairobi on February 25, 2020.
Image: PSCU

A battle for control of Nairobi’s billions has erupted between Governor Mike Sonko and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s men charged with managing the transferred county functions.

The governor is embroiled in a fierce fight with Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) director general Mohamed Badi and his Kenya Revenue Authority counterpart James Mburu.

The Star has established that the war has been simmering for barely one month before boiling over in the bitter exchanges witnessed between Sonko and Badi early this week.

 
 

Sources have revealed that Sonko clashed with the Major General because of his ties with county assembly speaker Beatrice Elachi, which resulted in the governor’s office allocation being slashed by Sh203 million in the revised county budget.

The MCAs allocated NMS Sh15 billion to carry out the four transferred functions, leaving the governor with about Sh21 billion to implement the remaining functions. 

Sonko, who had been facing impeachment, surrendered health, transport, public works and utilities and planning and development. He signed them over to Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa on February 25. President Kenyatta witnessed the handover at State House.

But Elachi defended the re-allocations, saying they only moved meant for emergency and those whose functions have been transferred.

Insiders also disclosed that Sonko has accused the NMS boss of keeping him "in the dark" and sidelining him in the execution of the transfer of the functions.

“The Deed of Transfer that we signed is extremely clear on how communication should be conducted between the national government, Nairobi county government and the NMS. Worse, still, most of this communication is done deliberately excluding me,” Sonko protested in a statement last Saturday.

Further, the governor has been infuriated by Badi’s summoning of the county staff, including his own appointees – CECs – without consulting him.

 

“The governor does not know what is going on. They (Sonko and Badi) have never met since they left State House. He has only been seeing money being moved and staff summoned without any consultation. Actually, he has been reading most of these things in the newspapers,” a source close to the governor said.

 

Land Executive Charles Kerich and his Health Services counterparts Hitan Majevdia, whose dockets are among those that have been transferred, confirmed to the Star that they have met Badi’s team twice since the new NMS was established.

The first engagement was during the handover by the Nairobi Regeneration Team co-chaired by Tourism CS Najib Balala and Sonko. The second meeting when they submitted status reports on their sectors to the authority.

“We have met them but it was only to give the status of our dockets. There was nothing much and our reporting lines remain to the appointing authority,” Majevdia said.

On Monday, Badi's team issued a letter of redeployment to all the county staff working in the affected sectors following an order issued by the Public Service Commission on behalf of the NMS last week.

But the director general downplayed Sonko’s assertions and told him off, saying he [the governor] voluntarily signed away the four functions to the national government and he [Badi] was now fully in charge of them.

“Governor Mike Sonko personally signed the Deed of Transfer and handed over the four key functions to the national government and I am in charge of those functions now,” the Major General said.

As for KRA boss Mburu, it is said he ran into trouble with the governor after the authority reportedly locked out county officials from the county revenue accounts.

It has emerged that the fight started soon after the taxman took over the collection of the city’s revenue on March 16.

In the agreement with State House, Sonko signed an agreement appointing KRA as the principal agent for overall revenue collection for the county government.

But he read mischief when the taxman closed all the four revenue accounts initially operated by the county and opened two new ones, locking out the county from being a signatory to either of them.

“That is where it all started. The governor says KRA was contracted like any other collection agent and, therefore, they cannot open any account without the county authorising or being a signatory to it,” the source said.

The Star was unable to reach Mburu to expound on teh matter. 

However, according to a ‘Nairobi City County takeover strategy’ document prepared by the taxman, the county government had agreed to appoint senior finance officers to work with the authority.

“NCCG [Nairobi City County Government] has confirmed commitment to this exercise and has appointed county senior finance officers to work with KRA,” the document reads.

Further, the document states that all the county staff involved in revenue collection were to be seconded to KRA.

Last Thursday, the county assembly approved a supplementary budget, giving Badi’s NMS half of the county’s 2019-20 budget.

The allocation included Sh7.4 billion for health services, Sh1.02 billion for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, Sh4.7 billion for transport and public works and Sh656 million for urban planning.

The realignments left the Sonko-led administration with Sh21.9 billion to run the remaining 10 functions, with the bulk of the budget having been absorbed in the first three quarters of the year.

During the special sitting, the assembly made NMS deputy director general Enosh Momanyi the holder of the Authority to Incur Expenses, essentially giving him the powers to spend the billions allocated by the assembly.

A day after the massive budget cuts, NMS through the Public Service Commission published a notice directing some 6, 052 county staff in the transferred sectors to pick their redeployment letters at Uhuru Park on Monday.

The unfolding events triggered a fierce reaction from the flamboyant county chief who accused Badi and his team of taking advantage of the situation to advance their personal interests.

In a strongly worded statement, Sonko slammed what he termed the " atrocious and repugnant manner" in which some individuals in the national government were implementing the deed of transfer.

“Clearly, there are few overzealous individuals within the national government who have been overtaken by excitement, and have chosen to …. pursue their narrow and myopic interests at the expense of the goodwill and good intentions held by the President and myself for the great people of Nairobi,” he said.

But Badi reacted in kind, exposing the bitter relationship that could stall or disrupt the transfer of the critical functions.

The Major General told Sonko he was fully in charge of all the human resources and assets, including vehicles that were in the Health, Transport, Public Works and Urban Planning dockets handed to him.

“Governor Mike Sonko personally signed the Deed of Transfer and handed over the four key functions to the National Government and I am in charge of those functions now,” Badi said once again.

He added the county assembly, in its special sitting, also approved the handover of the functions to him.

Governance and political expert Javas Bigambo said that Sonko traded with the functions and cannot claim an iota of authority over them as he signed a legally binding agreement.

“Sonko ought to quit such claims. He is driven by the whims of politics. He is bringing politics into matters that are clearly legal. Sonko remains the governor of Nairobi but his powers are now limited to the remaining functions,” he said.

University lecturer Macharia Munene said Sonko is in deep trouble after his powers were stippled and now is trying to play to the public gallery for political reasons.

“What Sonko is doing is a normal reaction for someone who has been forced to cede power. He is trying to poke holes in [the accord] and delay what is supposed to be done. But the sooner he realises that he will not succeed the better. The major is a no-nonsense man and he is working strictly according to the instructions,” he said.


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