A Basildon councillor charged with fraud is on an important council committee despite being in Kenya awaiting trial.

Daniel Munyambu has not been to a council meeting since March 1 after he was arrested in his native country.

He is not expected to be able to attend council meetings until the trial is concluded later this year.

However, Basildon Council’s ruling Tory administration has given him a post on the overview and scrutiny committee, which meets most months to analyse policy and decisions made by the authority.

The last meeting of the committee was on Tuesday.

If he does not attend a meeting of the council by September 1, he is likely to lose his seat, triggering a by-election.

Mr Munyambu has been suspended from the Labour Party pending the outcome of the trial and is now listed as an independent councillor.

Malcolm Buckley, a senior Tory councillor, defended him being given the role.

He said: “All parties have to be offered a proportion of positions on council committees, as Mr Munyambu is now an independent, it is effectively another party and he had to be offered a position.”

Mr Buckley said he stood by the principle of innocent until proven guilty and said it was possible he may attend a meeting.

He said: “I understand he is awaiting a trial date, but for all we know he could be on a flight back anytime. If he attends a meeting before September he will remain a councillor.”

The case centres on a vehicle export business the councillor ran from his home in Clickett End, Basildon.

Munyambu, who was voted in to the Vange seat in May 2011, is alleged to have forged receipts and obtained £18,000 under false pretences. Munyambu denies the offences, which are alleged to have taken place in Kenya.

Nigel Smith, leader of Basildon Labour group, said if he was leading the council, he would not have appointed Mr Munyambu.

He said: “The leader of the council has made this appointment and it is probably because it is in his best interests.”

“He suggested if Mr Munyambu does not attend it would be one less opposition councillor to scrutinise Tory policy.”

A council spokesman said: “Councillors do not have to give a reason as to why they cannot attend a council meeting.

“Councillor Munyambu did not give a reason why he did not attend the last full council meeting. We have received no formal notification of his current position.

“If a councillor does not attend a council meeting for six months, they will be automatically disqualified unless full council was to vote to extend this time limit.”