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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Scrap Senate, kill devolution

Scrap Senate, kill devolution.
Scrap Senate, kill devolution.

One of the fundamental changes that came with the 2010 Constitution is devolution. The transfer or delegation of power and resources to the counties from the central government was envisaged to ensure equal sharing of the national cake.

Unfortunately, after four years, the impact of devolution is below the people’s expectations. Counties have lost billions of shillings through corruption and mismanagement of projects. In some areas, it has been outright daylight looting in cases where wheelbarrows cost Sh100,000 and MCAs spend millions in ‘bench-marking’ trips abroad.

Such corruption cases have affected mwananchi’s attitude towards devolution. Some, admittedly, say the country is overly represented, ballooning the wage bill.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria last year launched his “Punda Amechoka” initiative, which aimed at cutting the public sector wage bill by abolishing the Senate and the woman representative seats.

The Budget and Appropriations Committee of the National Assembly last month also recommended that the Senate be abolished and governors be appointed by the President, as opposed to being elected. I, however, respectfully disagree with Kuria and the Mutava Musyimi-led committee’s proposal to scrap the Senate.

Article 96 of the 2010 Constitution clearly states the main role of the Senate is to represent the counties, and serve to protect their interests and their governments. The Senate determines the allocation of national revenue among counties, as provided in Article 217, and exercises oversight over national revenue allocated to the devolved units.

Across the world, various countries have adopted two Houses of Parliament for different reasons. In our case, the main reason was marginalisation of certain parts of this country and to help in improving governance.

But the problem we have in the counties is not because of the devolved system. No. It has everything all to do with the people holding these offices, ranging from the governors and senators to the MCAs. Some counties have actually done their best to serve their people. Others have opted to loot. The difference here is the office holders.

When you have a governor whose priority is to amass wealth, not to serve, then we know what to expect. Equally, if you have a senator not committed to holding the governor to account, as mandated by the Constitution, then devolution will fail. And to be fair, the current Senate has attempted to hold some governors to account.The Public Accounts and Investment Committee in February recommended eight governors to be investigated and prosecuted for breaching financial and procurement laws. The governors were found to have violated the law by making payments to the Council of Governors — a constitutional office funded annually by the Exchequer.

The governors mentioned were Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) William Kabogo (Kiambu), Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Okoth Obado (Migori), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), Daniel Waithaka (Nyandarua) and Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu).They were cited for unaccounted for expenditure and misapplication of funds.

This is not to say these governors are guilty of these accusations, but by the fact the Senate called on the EACC to investigate these cases shows something is being done.

Unfortunately, at a personal level, there are senators who have let their counties down in oversighting use of county funds. This could be as a result of personal qualities, lack of committment, and most importantly, the level of education. Having mentioned the Senate has to remain to oversight and protect devolved resources, knowledge and expertise in expenditure, development, accounts and, generally, how things work. This draws me to the ongoing debate whether education is important in leadership. I think it is. Even looking at those who negotiated the Lancaster Constitution, they were educated and exposed to ideas.

I believe we should stop thinking education is not a priority since we now have more opportunities to read, and also, because educated persons tend to perform better than uneducated ones. And this is how. A lot of money in the counties is lost during implementation of projects. As a cost engineer, for example, I would be able to use my professional experience to oversight county projects and the value for money. Another senator, who is good in accounts, say, will be at a better position to scrutinise county books.

My fear is if the Senate is scrapped, devolution will be as good as dead. We should, therefore, deal with non-performers holding these offices, by voting them out, and electing better leaders who will defend and protect every penny allocated to or collected by the county government.

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