Friday, 14 November 2014

Devolution is not helping Northerners because of zero- sum game politics.

Twenty months later, residents of Northern Kenya have nothing to write home about devolution. in fact one can authoritatively say that, in the restive North, devolution maintain governors’ lifestyles and those of their stooges -talk of fuel guzzlers, unending seminars at the coast, 24/7 presence in Nairobi and MCAs tripping to where-who-knows just to have selfies with wazungu waiters and flight attendants (of course no one receives them). Devolution is turning out contrary to people's expectations.

Two of NEP counties top the county revenue allocation list. To be precise, one was allocated 8 billion in the recently released proposed allocation - 2015/16 financial year. What can't that do? A lot!
It's unfortunate that 80 per cent of that is going to recurrent expenditure leaving very little for development. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are ghost workers. Devolution is not about salaries, fuelling vehicles, foreign travels and holding workshops. It seems devolution has been misunderstood and many governors have seen it as an opportunity to create jobs for their relatives, side-kicks and friends.

Governors are particularly spending a lot of money on foreign and local travels yet they had not undertaken any tangible development projects. Even after some have launched irrigation schemes worth billions, famine came and swept all including the trees. One wonders what happened to the crops. 'Birds' have eaten  them, they will say, in defence.

The never-ending tribal clashes and cowboy contractors make things worse. Last week, the Star newspaper reported that the bombings in the border county of NEP was as a result of vicious war between contractors. "Three explosions spaced out in one hour sequences rocked Mandera town Wednesday morning as contractors compete for roads tenders. The explosions caused by IEDs are believed to be the work of road contractors competing to get tenders to tarmac roads in the county. In the first explosion that occurred at 7:30am, a tractor that was leveling a section of a road within the town was damaged, the driver suffered minor injuries."  How about Marsabit? Wajir? What makes you think the tribal clashes were not financed?

The dwellers of the restive North who have known no real development, literally, were made to believe that they were "marginalised" because of unfavorable centralized national decision-making system. That is true, somehow. They have always hoped devolution will be a quick fix to “marginalisation” which was blamed for the underdevelopment in the expansive region. That is yet to materialize and no signs of big-time change are forthcoming mostly because of the kind of leadership in office and not devolution.

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river. But we can at least go for the best among the worst. Lets keep changing them. Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason.

I challenge you to tell me of any development project worth mentioning, from Marsabit to Mandera County. Which one? Tell me!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Know your representatives and their constitutional roles.

Many of us have been heard shouting from the top of the roof accusing one elected leader after the other, especially at the county level. But do we really understand their constitutional roles and responsibilities? Early last month I was challenged by a Senator friend of mine -from the mountain side and a fan of this blog. He simply suggested that I should at least say something "in your popular blog" about the roles and responsibilities of various elected leaders.

I have taken the challenge wholeheartedly but I was a bit reluctant to put pen to paper because some things are not my stuff.

Today we  try  our best to make you understand what these leaders were elected to do. For now we tackle three types of leaders, who in one way or the other, are associated with the county governments.


A senator, in my opinion, is to a county what a Member of Parliament is to a constituency. A county is a larger administrative unit to a constituency and as a matter of fact covers more than one constituency in geographical area.

In as much as the governor is the administrative head of the county, the Senator is the political head.

What are the roles of a senator?

His or her role is not to govern a county but is as a member of parliament: of the senate. Reading the constitution gives the impression of a very limited set of functions for the senate.
The main one is law making, laws that are of county nature. But, though every Bill, or draft Act of Parliament, must be passed by the National Assembly, only Bills that affect counties have to be approved by the Senate. This means anything that affects the constitutional powers of counties, or their finances or elections to county offices.

A Bill about something to be done only by the national government, which does not affect what county governments do, will not have to be approved by the Senate.

In fact, almost all the functions given to the Senate concern the county governments. It is important in allocation of national revenue to, and between, counties once every five years. The Senate makes the initial decision (it must use the work of the Commission on Revenue Allocation, constitutional principles, public input, and the input of others including the county governors). Its decision is final unless two-thirds of the National Assembly reject or change it.

The Senate has other important finance-related roles; according to the constitution it “exercises oversight over national revenue allocated to the county governments”, and this is backed up by detailed provisions of the Pubic Financial Management Act. But when the MPs passed the Constituency Development Fund Bill, they removed provisions giving the Senate a role in overseeing the CDF, changing a proposed supervisory Senate Committee to a National Assembly Committee - even a “parliamentary committee” did not satisfy them – and providing that CDF Regulations must be approved by the National Assembly not the Senate.

The Senate must approve any changes to county boundaries. And the Senate must approve any suspension of a county government by the President (if that government “engages in actions that are deemed to be against the common needs and interests of the citizens” of the county, says the County Governments Act) and can end a suspension.

A county may appeal to the Senate if the Transition Authority decides that the county does not have the capacity to exercise a governmental function that the county wants to be transferred to it.

The Senate does have two truly important functions in connection with national government. If a motion for the removal of the President or Deputy President is passed in the National Assembly, it will go to the Senate which will appoint a committee of its members to investigate the charges, and if its found they were justified, the Senate could remove the President or Deputy by a two-thirds vote of all its members. Perhaps, rather more often, the Senate may be called upon to perform a similar role in the removal of a governor under the County Governments Act.

A Senator will no doubt be able to bargain for benefits for his or her county, as US Senators do: “I shall vote for this Bill that you, the government, want only if you do this-and-this for my county” – what the American call “pork-barrelling”. Their ability to do this may be less than for MPs – because they will vote on far fewer Bills.


Who is a Governor? A governor is a person charged with the direction or control of an institution, society, etc. In our dispensation, the definition of the title could not be any different. For once, the title would not be a preserve of one person, the Central Bank Governor.

They are therefore the heads of the 47 counties established under the constitution and have a more managerial role as opposed to legislative, as exercised by members of parliament or County Assemblies.

The roles and responsibilities of a governor are, as per the constitution, stated in  chapter eleven, Devolved Government, Part 3.

Since the governor at the County level is the chief executive of a county, the person elected ought to be visionary with managerial skills, resourceful and above all, a humble leader. Today's governors with such qualities are few in this country. So far things are not as they ought to be for we voted with our stomach, tribal mind sets and what-have-you.

Governors and Senators in advanced democracies are presidential materials and it is  safe to reiterate here and now that days of anyone pretending to ascend to the presidency is  history. A future presidential candidates will be to a large extent persons who have served as governors or Senators and will be judged by track performance in those  units.

Member of County Assembly

Who is the County Assembly Member?

Each of us belongs to a county and much more a ward where the public services to be provided by both the national and county governments affect our everyday life. This is regardless of whether we participate in the governance or not. No one is to be excluded but there is all the more benefit to participate while seeking to ensure that services are economical, efficient and effectively provided to all without fear or favour.

The  Member County Assembly (MCA) who is the most local representative of the people plays an immense role in ensuring that county governments are kept accountable and supported. Each of the 47 Counties have a parliament, referred to as County Assembly (CA) responsible for making laws, approving budgets and plans of the county, and providing oversight in the running of the county governments. The CA is chaired by the speaker and "shall be elected for a five year term."

So who constitutes a MCA?
Article 177 of the Constitution provides for four categories:

(i) a person elected in each ward by the majority of the registered voters (this can be an independent candidate or a member of a political party)
(ii) a person nominated through a political party to ensure that the composition of the CA is such that no one gender is more than 2/3rds of the members
(iii) a person nominated through a political party to represent marginalized groups, persons with disability and the youth. The County Government Bill 2012 sets the total number of this nominations at 6 persons.
(iv) The speaker, who shall be an ex-officio member elected by the MCAs from among persons who are not MCAs.

The responsibility placed on the MCAs is to, (a) maintain close contact with the electorate and consult them on issues before or under discussion in the county assembly; (b) present views, opinions and proposals of the electorate to the county assembly; (c) attend sessions of the county assembly and its committees; (d) provide a linkage between the county assembly and the electorate on public service delivery; and e) extend professional knowledge, experience or specialised knowledge to any issue for discussion in the county assembly. A member of the county assembly shall not be directly or indirectly involved in the, (a) executive functions of the county government and its administration; or (b) delivery of services as if the member were an officer or employee of the county government.  (See County Government Bill 2012)

If the CA is to do its proper work properly, then both the MCAs and the citizens they represent need to play their respective roles. But how equipped are the MCAs to carry out their mandates . Do they have the expertise or at least access to expertise to ensure their effectiveness? How well are the County Assembly Service Boards resourced to ensure that the MCAs have offices to operate from? Of late the MCAs have turned out to be rogues than representatives. Here is why