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COUNTY GRAFT

MAKODINGO: Stop corrupt county leaders for Kenyans to benefit from devolution

All patriotic Kenyans must act decisively to protect county funds from loss and theft.

In Summary
  • A casual look at news coming in from counties with ever growing corruption cases paints a grim reality that should serve as a wakeup call.
  • According to EACC, as recently quoted in the media, most of the counties are tainted by corruption.
EACC chief executive Twalib Mbarak
EACC chief executive Twalib Mbarak
Image: FILE

For over two decades, Kenyans agitated for a new Constitution even as we once against became a Multi-Party democracy after decades of one-party rule. Key amongst the issues Kenyans agitated for was a devolved system of Government where some legislative and executive functions could be effectively performed at the local level. So, when the 2010 Constitution brought with it devolution, there was legitimate celebration amongst Kenyans. It also meant that Kenyans would have more say in the choice of who governs them, closer access to the national cake, and a say in how county resources allocated would be spent. Most significant is that the creation of the County Governments would ensure equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth, bringing the marginalised and poor areas of the country up to par with the rest of the country.

To ensure this was achieved, the process as well as formula for sharing the resources between the National Government and the devolved Government was entrenched in the Constitution, as were the devolved units of governance, Counties. The budgetary allocation and share of funds from the National Government to the County Government was also provided for under Article 203 (2) of the Constitution to ensure an equitable share of revenue raised nationally between the national and county governments.

Fast forward to the end of the end of the second term of the County Governments, the National Government under the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta, has disbursed over 2.3 Trillion shillings to the country’s 47 County Governments through the National Treasury – in just nine Financial Years between 2013 to 2021.

However, many have argued that this allocation, as big as it is, has not translated into better livelihoods for most County residents, mostly because of high level corruption by the various administrations in their counties even as the executives continue to agitate for more resources from the National Government. Some observers believe that with increased funds, there is an increased risk of devolving even more corruption to the counties.

A casual look at news coming in from counties with ever growing corruption cases paints a grim reality that should serve as a wakeup call. According to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC)’s Chief Executive Officer, as recently quoted in the media, most of the counties are tainted by corruption. This is a crushing blow to the dreams and aspirations of Kenyans after promulgation of a new Constitution, which specifically created anti-corruption institutions and laws to address the issues of corruption and ethical leadership.

That is why we are calling out the misuse of county funds in some counties. The issues of loss of devolved funds through corruption should be of concern to all Kenyans of goodwill, and an area to focus on if we are to reap the fruits of devolution. This becomes more urgent as we head to the General Elections in seven months, where Kenyans will once again have a chance to elect their leaders.

Some public officials entrusted with overseeing utilization of devolved resources have seen it as an opportunity to  enrich themselves, their families, friends, relatives and cronies, to the detriment of residents. Fortunately, anti-graft agencies led by the EACC have been closely montioring developments in the counties with a view to bringing graft perpetrators to book. Already, many county officials including current and former Governors, County Executives and Members of County Assemblies have been arretsed and charged with various corruption-related offences. And this affects almost all the fourty seven counties in Kenya. Looting of funds, abuse of office, conflict of interest, blatant abuse of procurement systems, and Governors using their influence to award tenders to family members, friends, cronies and supporters, are just some of the corruption allegations involved in these cases.

The immediate former Kiambu Governor is facing charges of abuse of office and graft involving a 588 million-shilling contracts for roads repairs, following a dramatic impeachment by the Kiambu County Assembly and removal from office by The Senate. Also netted by EACC in relation to the graft charges were the former governor’s wife, his business associates and senior county officials. Migori Governor is also facing charges of corruption involving conspiracy to defraud his own government of 505.6 million together with his four children and other close family members. Immediate former Nairobi was charged together with his senior county officials with fraud and conspiracy to commit an offence of corruption leading to the loss of 213 million shillings from the Nairobi City County for services not rendered. Samburu Governor is also facing charges of abuse of office, unlawful acquisition of public property and conflict of interest over the payment of 84.7 million shillings to himself in a scandal over the supply of fuel to the County.

These arrests and prosecutions are indicative of the real problem facing the aspirations of Kenyans in the devolved system of governance: that of corruption from the top. Indeed, as the saying goes, the fish starts to rot from the head. And it is this head that needs to be changed.

This is all the more reason to head the recent call by EACC CEO Twalib Mbarak, urging the public to elect leaders of integrity as the country gears up for next year’s General Election. And this call should not just end with Governors – voters must also choose members of County Assemblies with integrity but also with the capacity to hold County Executives to account. As it stands, most have no capacity, and even those that do are often in bed with the executive to loot public funds and are therefore not capable of holding them to account.

All patriotic Kenyans must act decisively to protect County funds from loss and theft by voting in responsible stewards of public finances. Only in this way shall we as a nation be able to secure our future and realise our aspirations.