Devolution Conference 2023 Begins in Eldoret

  • The umbrella County Assemblies Forum (CAF) Secretary General Chege Mwaura says county legislatures have been deliberately left out as key stakeholders in devolution.
  • The Council of Governors has not seen the need to involve County Assemblies in the Devolution Conference, says Robert Alai, MCA Kileleshwa Ward MCA, Nairobi.

Devolution Conference 2023 has kicked off in Eldoret amid protests by the county legislators saying they are not represented at the forum as key stakeholders in devolved government.

The umbrella County Assemblies Forum (CAF) Secretary General Chege Mwaura said on Monday that county governments were the drivers of devolution.

Devolved government is provided in Chapter Eleven of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. Article 176 (1) states that there shall be a county government for each county, consisting of a county assembly and a county executive.

Mr Mwaura pointed out that the organisers of the Conference themed – Devolution at 10, had deliberately left out the input of county legislatures which are key stakeholders in devolved government.

“You cannot effectively talk about devolution by speaking about one side of the county government and expect to have a full conversation on devolution, unless it is purely an executive conversation”, Mr Mwaura told The Times.

From the onset of devolution in 2013, the county legislatures have been seeking to have financial autonomy. The law as structured today does not give county assemblies the desired financial autonomy.

That has remained a major impediment to the independence of the county legislative assemblies, particularly regarding their oversight roles on the executive.

Mr Mwaura asserted that the Conference organisers have basically ignored the legislative arms of devolution, which does not augur well in the spirit of devolution. 

The Council of Governors Chairperson and Kirinyaga County Governor Ann Waiguru 

“As County Assemblies we cannot talk about county governments and ignore the executive. We would also be on a wrong trajectory”, CAF Secretary General said.

Quite often, governors have taken advantage of the void in the law to hold county assemblies at ransom on disbursements from the National Treasury, which greatly impedes their effective oversight activities on the executive.

President William Samoei Ruto graced the official opening of the Devolution Conference on Wednesday 16th August, 2023. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will give a note address on Thursday 17th afternoon. His address will be preceded by a video on the devolution journey.

In telephone conversation on Monday 14th August, 2023 CAF Secretary General noted that in an ideal situation, one would not look at how devolution had performed in 10 years from the executive dimension alone, without contribution from the county legislatures.

He said county governments exist as the executive on one side and legislature on the other. The Devolution Conference, he explained, had a missing link in the way it has been packaged leaving out the county legislative arms.

“Article 185 (1) provides that the legislative authority of a county is vested in, and exercised by its county assembly. This informs why county assemblies are key stakeholders in the Devolution Conference”, CAF Secretary General said.

In Nairobi, Kileleshwa Ward Member of County Assembly Robert Alai told The Times County Assemblies had been given a raw deal in the Devolution Conference that kicked off on Tuesday 15th August, 2023.

“As the Devolution Conference begins in Eldoret, I am extremely worried about the fate of devolution because the Council of Governors has not seen the need to involve County Assemblies in the Conference”, Mr Alai said in a statement. 

He pointed out that not a single Speaker of County Assembly, MCA or Clerk of County Assembly from the 47 County Assemblies had been slotted to address the Conference or participate as a panelist in the numerous sessions.

“But we have all manner of Cabinet Secretaries, NGO heads, corporates and national government officials gracing the forum as key speakers and panelists”, Alai noted. 

In the circumstances, the Ward representative said it would only be fair for the County Assemblies to give the devolution conference a wide berth.

Mr Mwaura said two among the key issues county assemblies want addressed through national legislation was financial autonomy and the Ward Development Fund.

The Secretary General said the Senate was supposed to come up with law on financial autonomy for the county legislatures.

He explained that CAF had forwarded to Senate recommendations on proposed amendments to create financial autonomy for the county assemblies.

“When the Senate comes to the Devolution Conference, it comes to look at the interests of county governments, to protect them as enshrined in the law”, the Ngara Ward representative noted.

Under Article 96 (1), the Senate represents the counties and serves to protect the interests of the counties and their governments, he pointed out.

“So you cannot bring the Senate on board and purport to say you have brought the county legislatures. The role of the Senate is very specific”, CAF Secretary General said.

Mr Mwaura recalled that President Ruto had occasionally mentioned about the need for county assemblies to have financial autonomy and the Ward Development Fund by legislation but it is only the Senate which can operationalise such sentiments.

“The executive cannot talk about facilitating effective work of the county legislatures. What have they said about financial autonomy of the devolved legislatures? Can the executive cite failed approaches”?, Mwaura questioned.

He added that if the organizers were only looking at the executive function then there is a missing link in the Devolution Conference.

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