Amid the controversy of the separation between Machakos Governor, Alfred Mutua, and his long-term partner, Lillian Nganga, questions have emerged on the benefits that county First Ladies enjoy.
When the Transition Authority was undertaking a breakdown of roles that governors would have, there was opposition on the creation of the office of the County First Lady but with time these offices were created.
Being the wife or husband to a sitting governor attracts certain benefits. Some of these benefits include having an office that is established under the County administration to carry out projects that benefit the local communities.
Spouses of governors who have offices at the county government are entitled to staff members and some have established foundations that are partly funded by the local administration.A picture compilation of County First Ladies, from left Wako Kuti (Isiolo), Stella Samboja (Taita Taveta), Sarah Tunai (Narok) and Edna Lenku (Kajiado).File
They also qualify for generous travel benefits and most of them tour foreign countries to get funding for their local foundations, which range from championing for menstrual health to combating poverty. However, since most are women, they have foundations that concentrate on helping fellow women.
County First Ladies are given funding for their public activities and for acting as hostesses at official functions. They are also allocated bodyguards from the police service.
Other perks that come with being the spouse of a governor include a hefty medical cover. In addition, spouses also get official vehicles and some are extended to their children.
Some of the programmes spearheaded by counties first ladies include a medishare programme in Nyeri, support of children homes in Kisii, sanitation programmes in Makueni, Gender-Based Violence intervention in Narok, Breast and Cervical Cancer Clinics in Machakos as well as partnering with First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in her ‘Beyond Zero’ campaign on maternal health.
Further, they stand to gain even after their spouses leave office after a Bill was proposed to allow governors to take home hefty perks. The Bill proposed a monthly pension of 80 percent of Ksh924,000 which amounts to Ksh739,200 for governors for the rest of their lives. Upon demise, their spouses stand to receive 50 percent of the monthly pension.
The Bill proposed that retiring governors, deputy governors, speakers, and MCAs receive a 3000 CC vehicle fueled by the county at a rate of Ksh92,400. They also demand one personal assistant and one housekeeper for the rest of their lives. In the Bill, their spouses were entitled to full medical covers.
When they were demanding to have offices with staff, the county first ladies argued that some of the spouses were serving their constituents in various capacities despite having a full-time job.
However, these offices have not come without challenges. In 2018, Laikipia County Woman Representative, Catherine Waruguru, accused the County Governor’s wife, Maria Mbeneka, of interfering with her work when distributing free sanitary towels to public schools in Nyahururu town.
“We elected the governor and not the first lady. She should concentrate on her kitchen and other domestic chores,” Laikipia County Woman Rep stated.
In 2014, former Attorney General, Githu Muigai, did not want governors’ spouses to be allocated to county offices nor be entitled to a budgetary provision for their outreach activities.
He argued that although it is a good idea for governors’ wives to engage in social and charitable causes to better the well-being of communities in their counties, money to fund such activities should not be drawn from public offices.
Governors’ spouses, he stated, should harness private and civic philanthropic resources to undertake informal functions, contrary to their present public engagements.
The former AG explained that the County Government Act did not provide the Governor with the same powers and privileges as the President. He further argued that the concept of having offices for First Ladies established at a sub-national level was only found in purely federal systems of government such as Nigeria and the USA.
Following the establishment of the office of the County First Lady, MCAs started demanding their wives be given allowances. A member of the Embu County Assembly went on and petitioned the Senate to introduce monthly stipends for the spouses of MCAs.
“The welfare of MCAs must be looked into if devolution is to succeed. Give our spouses some allowances as compensation for all the time their husbands are away. They spend a lot of time lonely,” Munene stated.
This caused an uproar, with Kenyans reminding the three arms of government that the taxpayers were already burdened with the number of MCAs that were elected in office.The petition never saw the light of day.Uhuru Meets Nairobi MCAs at the State House, Nairobi in 2020PSCU
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