• Several issues need to be addressed to have a strong and vibrant assemblies that can robustly drive the intents of Article 174
• With a strong Senate, empowered CAF, proper remuneration of MCAs and financial autonomy, the assemblies will turn counties into crucibles of economic growth
One of the key objects of devolution in Article 174(f) of the Constitution is to promote social and economic development and provision of proximate and easily accessible services across Kenya.
With the declining revenues, ballooning debts, high rate of inflation and high levels of employment, the realisation of Article 174(d) is very critical in this parliamentary term.
The role of County Assemblies towards this objective is critical. However several issues need to be addressed to have a strong and vibrant assemblies that can robustly drive the intents of Article 174.
First, we must rethink the role of the Senate as specified in Article 96, which mandates it as the representative of the interests of counties and protector of devolution.
However the Senate’s role has been passive. It seems to have been overshadowed by the National Assembly and needs to reassert its authority as the upper chamber of Parliament as expected in the concept of bicameralism.
The Senate should then champion and actively fight for the strengthening of devolution by channeling more resources to devolved functions such as health. Secondly, it must take keen interest in the challenges and bottlenecks facing the county assemblies.
As the institution representing the counties and serving to protect their interests, the Senate must make an assessment of the place and role of assemblies in devolution. In this parliamentary term, it should enact laws to entrench the County Assemblies Forum in the governance structure.
The forum promotes and coordinates intergovernmental relations and enhances good practice in legislation. It also offers critical services to assemblies in capacity building, networking and improving the governance structures and system through development partners and contribution from assemblies.
However, persistent audit queries and inquiries stand in the way of the support this institution provides thus the need for recognition in law. The senate must also address the pitiable remuneration of the MCAs.
In the lame duck period of the last Parliament, the SRC reduced the salaries and benefits of MCAs without consultation, deliberation and public participation involving stakeholders thus violating the right of MCAs to fair hearing and consent to review of their terms and conditions of their employment.
The MCAs are the first point of contact of the electorate. They bear a lot of social burden due to their constant travel to their wards and their close proximity to the electorate. Proper remuneration for this state office will also mean it will attract people with the competencies and skills required for the performance of the core functions.
The Senate should thus partner with CAF to have SRC restore the salaries and benefits. It must also work towards ensuring financial autonomy of the assembles to the status of an arm of government in the counties as specified in Article 176. This will ensure the assemblies engage in proper financial planning and management without any impediments.
With a strong Senate, empowered CAF, proper remuneration of MCAs and financial autonomy, the assemblies will partner with the executive to turn counties into crucibles of economic growth and development to address the greatest challenge facing the nation — declining revenue.
The panacea to this woe does not lie in further taxation but increasing productivity through the adoption of technology and skills to bring more sectors, entities and individuals within the tax bracket. Increased taxation to raise revenue is tantamount to flogging a dead horse.
The Senate should strengthen devolution by addressing these challenges. Strong and independent assembles will help churn laws, policies and regulations that contribute to social economic development, spur job creation and reduce poverty and hunger in counties with huge potential and resources.
Weak assembles will be a burden to the taxpayer that gobbles resources without any economic return.
The writer is the speaker of Wajir county assembly