RESOURCE ALLOCATION

Fix the broken one man, one vote system for fairness

The power of the presidency to change the equation of division of resources has led to the urgent demand for a more inclusive Executive.

In Summary

• The negotiation of how and by whom these resources are distributed has caused violence in the past, and it will again, if we do not change the equation.

If we want more inclusion, those with weaker votes in the National Assembly but able to have a strong role in deciding who becomes President will need reassurance

National Treasury building in Nairobi
National Treasury building in Nairobi
Image: ENOS TECHE

Kenyans believe political competition decides “who gets what, when and how”.

The negotiation of how and by whom these resources are distributed has caused violence in the past, and it will again, if we do not change the equation.

The power of the presidency to change the equation of division of resources has led to the urgent demand for a more inclusive Executive. This is where the cries for a Prime Minister are coming from. The monies to the counties, which are divided by a formula by the Commission of Revenue Allocation, are only a portion of the national budget, meaning the presidency can determine a lot of the “who gets what, when and how”.

There are two ways out to ensuring Kenyans feel that there is absolute fairness in how national resources are shared. One is for a bulk of the national budget — say 80-90 per cent — to be allocated to the counties and shared in a transparent formula. Two is for the parliamentary budgeting and oversight roles to reflect equal representation so that constituencies and counties can know their representatives have the power to effectively negotiate for equitable share.

The first option would deliver little national vision and economies of scale. It would almost demand that Kenya becomes a federal system.

In a country with a relatively weak national ideology, the result would almost be the creation of 47 new countries, and ethnic minorities within the county units feeling discriminated against. The odds are that those minorities would start their own agitation, including through violence, for their own power over resource share.

The second option is for the number of MPs to equally reflect the population. Such a distribution would ensure the budget and how the national government plans and implements reflects the numbers in each constituency. As a result, the stakes in the presidential race will be reduced. Unfortunately in Kenya, there is often a problem with how we do our math: Representation in Parliament is hugely unequal.

Article 89 of the Constitution says: “The boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants in the constituency is, as nearly as possible, equal to the population quota, but the number of inhabitants of a constituency may be greater or lesser than the population quota”.

It goes on to make an exception to the equal share by providing for “the number of inhabitants of a constituency or ward may be greater or lesser than the population quota by a margin of not more than 40 per cent for cities and sparsely populated areas; and 30 per cent for the other areas.”

This means voters can have a difference of up to 80 per cent between urban and rural areas.

The result of this accounting is that Kenyans in Nairobi county are the most under-represented nationally. It is as if they are being punished for living in a city where most Kenyans do not regard as “home”. Yet as Kenya urbanises rapidly, most town/city dwellers will have been born there. They deserve equal representation.

The Bill of Rights puts “Equality and freedom from discrimination” as the most fundamental constitutional requirement. It says in Article 27: “Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law”.

That “equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms”. And that “women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres”. On the conduct of the government, it says, “the State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground…”

Equality is the name of the game where the constitution is concerned. It cannot justify the voting power of Kenyans having an 80 per cent difference. It should be equal or have a much smaller gap to account for the special considerations of sparsely populated areas.

If we want more inclusion by getting rid of the First-Past-The-Post system of voting for the presidency, those with weaker votes in the National Assembly but able to have a strong role in deciding who becomes President will need reassurance. That will come from making voting power more equal, making Kenya a real “one-man-one-vote” country.

Otherwise the populous will hold on to their power to decide the presidency while the sparsely populated hold on to their relative parliamentary strength.

Peter Wafula Murumba is the MD Impulso Kenya Limited [email protected]