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This is Australia: Kenyan-born Senator to refund Sh160k used in birthday bash

Kenyan-born Australian Senator Lucy Gichuhi has agreed to pay back funds she used to fly two relatives to her birthday party.

The South Australia senator used Australian $2,139 (Sh160,993) to fly the family members to her “50th plus GST” birthday celebrations in Adelaide, Australia.

Following media reports, Ms Gichuhi termed the incident an administrative error and agreed to pay back the funds.

“Regarding the media reports about my travel expenses, this was an administrative error involving misunderstanding of travel rules. I’ve raised an invoice from the department to pay the costs of $2139 in full,” tweeted Ms Gichuhi on Sunday.

TRAVEL ALLOWANCES

Australian members of Parliament are allowed to claim travel allowances for official duties such travelling to or from sittings of the House of Parliament, formal business of parliamentary committees and attendance of official government functions among several others.

Ms Gichuhi won the South Australia seat last year through a vote recount after the winner’s election was nullified, becoming the first senator of African descent in the Australian senate.

During the senate vote of July 2016, Mrs Gichuhi was vying to represent the state of South Australia on a Family First Party ticket.

The only other candidate in the party was Bob Day, and given the number of votes the party received, only one candidate would head to the Senate.

Mrs Gichuhi had considered the seat lost, as Mr Day was selected to represent the state.

ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONED

But Mr Day’s eligibility to vie was questioned in court. In the verdict issued last week, High Court judges sitting in the Court of Disputed Returns found that he had done business with the government by renting out a house in 2015.

Having annulled Mr Day’s candidature, the judges ordered a special recount of the votes.

That meant Mrs Gichuhi was a likely taker of the seat because unlike the Kenyan system, where a candidate is elected, in Australia it is the party that is elected first before the number of its representatives in the senate is determined using a specified formula.