ANNE-DERMINING DEVOLUTION?

Strengthen county oversight to avoid impeachments

Kenyans need to elect more professionals as MCAs as their job is no longer that of councillors but real legislators.

In Summary

• While tribe is a key catalyst in defence of corruption, it is now clear that political allegiance is also a key contributing factor.

•  While on one hand MCAs have been complaining about governors going rogue with the county funds, the latter have accused the ward reps of extortion .

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru takes a sip of water during her impeachment hearing at the Senate on Tuesday, June 23, 2020
HIGHER OFFICE: Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru takes a sip of water during her impeachment hearing at the Senate on Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru’s impeachment has once again brought to the fore the political fissures within the country, with people taking sides without relying on material facts.

That such a serious matter can be adjudged purely on the basis of political inclinations is in itself quite disheartening, demonstrating how corruption is easily condoned, if it affects one’s political allies.

While tribe is a key catalyst in defence of corruption, it is now clear that political allegiance is also a key contributing factor.

 
 

However, the fact that we seem to be in an ‘impeachment season’, with other counties such as Kitui lining up for the same, it exposes the poor oversight mechanisms within county governments.

It’s also not lost to observers that Nancy Gathungu was only last week nominated to the position of the Auditor General. She will, if approved and appointed, succeed the indefatigable Edward Ouko after more than nine months.

While on one hand MCAs have been complaining about governors going rogue with the county funds, the latter have accused the ward reps of extortion and having an insatiable appetite for money.

It is important, however, to ask on whether impeachment is the only recourse for oversight. To begin with, governors and MCAs are elected to bring development to the people.

However, the county funds become a preserve of the priorities of the governor, and MCAs have no alternative other than to bootlick them for them to access development in their wards.

On the other hand, governors appoint their cronies to plum positions, especially on procurement, so that they can influence tenders to companies associated with them.

These flurry of advisers perform duties of mainstream public servants, a clear indication of how corruption, nepotism and personality based politics are increasingly entrenching themselves at the expense of professionalism in the public service.

That Kirinyaga county Procurement director Joseph Carilus Otieno didn’t have a practicing certificate and that a partisan staffer, Pauline Kamau, was appointed by Waiguru to superintend over the evaluation process of certain preferred tenders demonstrates how influence peddling is morphing to entrench corruption without affecting the principle suspect.

MCAs, on the other hand, have been accused of having an insatiable appetite for money.

Without a development kitty such as NG-CDF, they are the first port of call for many of the community problems from harambees, funerals, weddings, medical bills, church contributions etc.

They, therefore, device ways and means to get as much cash as possible to meet these demands. This has occasioned a situation whereby they demand to be bribed to pass every important bill such as the budget (appropriations bill) or public appointments.

That governors have been seen to determine development priorities almost whimsically brings to the fore the non-compliance with proper planning structures such as the County Integrated Development Plan, which gives a five-year outlay of what a given county ought to prioritise.

 
 

Second, there is the Annual Development Plan that also seeks to guide the budget process in terms of priority projects, and the annual County Fiscal Strategy Paper, which provides for budget ceilings to be followed based on revenue projections. However, these safeguards aren’t properly followed by the governors and the MCAs.

To cure these problems, there is need to create a ward development fund to ensure priorities at this unit of devolution are properly planned and budgeted for.

This can only be so if the CIDP and the ADP are properly sourced and implemented. There is also the need to improve on the timelines for the county budget process to give more room for effective public participation to create ownership and to ensure priorities reflect the real felt needs of the community.

Further, the fact that big projects are the mother of mega corruption, it is important to set thresholds on what allocations get what levels of approvals.

MCAs, county executives and other state and public officials should be barred from doing business with the county, even by proxy.

In addition, county assembly audit committees should be put in place with the requisite professionals to assist MCAs perform their duties effectively.

Professional advice by a well-resourced county budget office and the separation of the county treasury and the functions of the executives for Finance and Planning are also critical.

Further, Kenyans need to elect more professionals as MCAs as their job is no longer that of councillors but real legislators.

Elements of state level accountability developed over hundreds of years in different jurisdictions such as free media, intelligence and a robust civil society are also critical at the county level.

This is to avoid the role of the Senate and the Judiciary at the national level acting as morticians, who only come to check what killed the patient, when she is long dead.

Devolution is the revolution, and corruption is not a devolved function. Long live the spirit of devolution.