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Residents petition assembly over county houses rent waiver fiasco

A section of Nairobi residents has petitioned Nairobi County Assembly over the contentious rent waivers issued to tenants living in Nairobi County government houses.
This follows confusion over the legality of the said waivers with City Hall aand Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) reading from different scripts.
The residents – drawn from Umoja Old Ngara Welfare Association, New Ngara Estate Welfare Association and Old Council Estate Association – want the county assembly to look into the matter with a view to ensuring that there is clarity on which office is legally supposed to issue such waivers.
Last month, NMS boss Major General Mohammed Badi said a waiver extension to the tenants issued by Governor Mike Sonko some two weeks earlier holds no water as the governor had  no authority to issue such a waiver.
“The rent waiver issued by the governor is not legitimate because housing is a transferred function, so he has absolutely no authority to waive. And after all, people who are collecting revenue is the Kenya Revenue Authority and not the governor,” said Mr Badi.
This was after Mr Sonko extended rent waivers to the tenants for six more months ostensibly to cushion residents who are recovering from the negative economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in loss of jobs and income with Nairobi being worst hit in the country.
“Pursuant to my earlier waiver in April, I do hereby extend the waiver earlier granted for a period of six months from the date of this letter, as our residents continue to recover economically from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic,” said the governor in the October 23, 2020 letter addressed to acting County Secretary Justus Kathenge.
In the petition, presented to the assembly by Ngara MCA Chege Mwaura, the residents said that although the county government had extended the rent waiver for tenants residing in city county government houses for more than six months, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) had been collecting rent from the county houses since March.
The residents now want the assembly to look into the matter to ensure that the procedure due for such waivers such as publication of intention for any waiver and invitation for comments from the public were followed.
Section 6 of the Nairobi City County Waiver Administration Act, 2013 provides for the publication of intentions for any waiver and invitation of comments from the public on the same.
Section 7 of the same Act provides that every waiver shall be reported to the county assembly and published in the Kenya Gazette not more than 14 days after it is granted.
“The spirit of Article 118 and 201(a) require that the county government undertake public participation before enacting and implementing any policy, regulation or laws. We pray that the assembly ensure the said waivers conform to the Act and if not, offer directions with timeliness on the same,” read in part the petition.
In April, Sonko granted rent waiver for rent arrears owed by tenants living in county government houses who had failed to clear their debts due to financial challenges.
However, the tenants complained of constant harassment and threats of eviction by KRA and NMS due to pending rent arrears despite the rent waivers issued by the county boss.

The petition is now before the assembly’s Budget and Appropriations, and the Justice and Legal Affairs committees for consideration.