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Monday, August 21, 2017

Senate's role in devolution


The election could be won or lost based on devolution. Devolution is the new struggle for Kenya after restoration of pluralism and promulgation of the new Constitution. It is about deepening sustainable democratic governance, addressing inequalities, equal access to opportunities and equity in governance, consolidating democratic stability, peace and security.

The Senate is at the heart of this system. Sadly, it appears the Senate hasn't quite grasped its core mission. The single largest economic and financial risk which adoption of the new Constitution portends is failure of the national government to rationalise and downsize as the law stipulates.

Ministries, state corporations and the provincial administration are just as intact as they were before the Constitution. Rather than dismantle the old order, the national government is strengthening it. It is sustaining a costly, wasteful and duplicative parallel system of government.

This is a subtle strategy to weaken the devolved governments. The size, structure and cost of running the national government were to be drastically reduced by devolution.

The Senate, as the protector and as the agency of advancing devolution, has the arduous yet pivotal responsibility to undertake massive governance and development transformation. It has a strategic and pivotal role of driving state transformation, unlike the National Assembly.

The Judiciary has been very generous with critical judgements that have asserted and expanded the mandate of the Senate. The courts are also emerging as crucial pillars of strengthening the devolved system.

But the Senate has not seized its powers to overhaul governance and development from the old order. The old order still persists and the National Assembly is determined to enhance it.

What should be the agenda for the Senate? First, it should enforce the constitutional principle of separation of powers and functions. It should enact the prerequisite legal framework to guide and regulate proliferation of devolved funds, bringing their implementation under the county treasury for prudent, responsible and accountable utilisation.

It should enhance the fiscal transfer system, institutionalise accountability mechanisms, improve financial management and establish effective monitoring systems.

Secondly, transition to a fully devolved system of governance and development as stipulated in the Constitution is still incomplete. The Senate should embark on restructuring all national institutions, including parastatals and corporations, to comply with devolution and bring Vision 2030 into conformity with the county-centred development plan.

Thirdly, it should exercise its lawmaking powers to deepen and consolidate county institutions and the entire devolved system, including administrative, political, financial and security matters. It should facilitate the restructuring, reorganisation and rationalisation of the entire governance and administrative system and processes.

This will effectively strengthen devolution, create less government bureaucracy, drastically reduce recurrent expenditure and increase efficiency. The national government's presence at the county should only be through technical officers working in consultation and cooperation with the county government.

Fourth, the Senate needs to facilitate the building of the county governments' institutional capacity. This includes human resource, physical facilities and operational systems. It must source and tap sectoral knowledge and expertise for the county governments on governance, spatial economic development planning, sourcing for economic investments and ensuring institutional and socioeconomic infrastructure that cuts off duplication.

Fifth, the Senate has a major role in moving the budget from the mechanics involved in budget-making, ie, drafting, negotiations, legislation and passage to engineering the process of budget. Engineering the budget means using the resources available to make and expand the revenue base.

Everyone is focused on the mechanics (sharing revenue) and not engineering, which expands, diversifies and increases economic productivity. Finally, Senate in consultation with the Council of Governors needs to set up clear reporting, assessment, auditing and reviewing mechanisms to avoid fractious antagonism.

It should create avenues and bridges for the county and national governments to engage, negotiate and cooperate in harmony and constructively on resources, functions and service delivery.

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