The fallout from Governor Mike Sonko’s impeachment has exposed alleged corrupt dealings at City Hall amid claims that the county government wired millions of shillings to members of the county assembly to try influence them over a disputed budget.
According to a letter written by the governor, some MCAs who sit in the 20-member Budget and Appropriations committee received in excess of Sh800,000 in per diems to travel to Dubai for a committee meeting but never travelled.
Mr Sonko, in the letter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), accused members of the committee of receiving public funds for a retreat which they never attended despite being facilitated.
“Payments from the exchequer were made to the respective bank accounts of the intended participants to facilitate their travel, as demonstrated in the copies of attached documents herein. However, the chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, Robert Mbatia and his vice chairman Michael Ogada alongside other members, never travelled despite being facilitated with public funds,” Mr Sonko claimed in the letter dated December 4.
The committee has at least 20 members.
The money was sent to their bank accounts on October 23, four days before they left Nairobi for Mombasa, in a well-orchestrated scheme to push the memorandum through. The committee travelled on October 27 and returned on November 1.
In the memorandum, the governor was contesting the Sh37.5 billion budget that had left his administration with a paltry Sh8.4 billion while allocating the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Sh27.1 billion.
He wanted the budget reduced to Sh31.6 billion and a number of allocations to NMS scrapped. The assembly rejected the memorandum.
“Money was put in my account on October 23. It was Sh823,324. But on realising the same, I instructed my bank to begin the process of sending back the money to its source. That was done on November 3, when the same amount was deducted from my account,” said Mr Mbatia.
In a letter to the then Chief Finance Officer, Mr Halkano Waqo, the Kariobangi South MCA revealed that he would not be travelling to Dubai due to another engagement with the Education committee, of which he is a member, declining the offer in the process.
Return the money
“I have been notified by my bank this morning that an amount of Sh823,324 has been deposited in my account. After consulting with your office, I have been notified that it is for travel allowance to Dubai,” read in part the letter dated October 23.
“I have today instructed my bank to return the money back to the sender bank account immediately. I will not be travelling as during the same period I have Education committee meeting in Mombasa,” added the letter.
Return the money
Mr Mbatia wrote to Standard Chartered Bank the following day instructing it to return the money. The money was returned to the county government’s account.
“Dear client, Sh823,324 has been withdrawn from account ending with 3500,” was the message he received from the bank notifying him that the money had been sent back.
He said that he would later learn that a number of his colleagues had received money from the county government but wasn’t sure whether or not they returned the money.
Reached for comment, most members of the committee were tight-lipped on whether or not they received the money, saying they didn’t wish to comment on the issue.
Mr Mbatia said the money was sent to fix them as it was done just before they had left to consider the memorandum.
“This was bribery. It was done to fix us. I never had a Visa or ticket but money was put into my account. My question is: How was the money requisitioned for? Was it approved by the Controller of Budget? I believe they spent at source as the national government had banned international travels even for MCAs,” he said.