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New rules to govern foreign travel by counties

Sunday November 9 2014

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed. She said Baringo Members of County Assembly would be the first “beneficiaries” of the new rules as they prepared to visit South Korea. FILE PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

KENFREY KIBERENGE
By KENFREY KIBERENGE
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AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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County governments will no longer be allowed to send delegations of more than seven people for official visits abroad, according to new guidelines developed by the Foreign Affairs ministry.

The rules provide that all trips by the county administration be co-ordinated by the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Devolution.

Counties will also be required to give the ministry a 90-day notice to allow for adequate preparations and liaison with the hosts.
All requests must contain a concept note, name of the head of the delegation and his/her bio data as well as the full list of people on the delegation.
But Council of Governors (CoG) spokesman Barrack Muluka said the guidelines were unrealistic as an emergency might come up, prompting the need for immediate travel.

The rules only exempt the 90-day notice and the cap on the number in the delegation for trips where the invitation is from the host assembly.

The guidelines are contained in a memo sent to all heads of missions and directorates by the acting director liaison, parliamentary and county affairs, Mrs Yvonne Wamalwa.

Mrs Wamalwa said the guidelines were agreed upon at a workshop between the ministry and CoG last month.

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And that, according to Mr Muluka, has everything to do with the defective relationship between the national and county governments.

Mr Muluka said the national government assumes that holding consultations with governors alone addresses all issues of devolved units.

“There is a misunderstanding here. The MCAs often feel left out because they are a different arm of county governments just like the National Assembly or Senate is to the national government,” he opined.

There have been concerns over increased uncoordinated and overlapping of foreign travel by Kenyan delegations both at the national and county level.

ILL-TIMED DELEGATIONS

“Furthermore, there have been no mechanisms to ensure that such visits and tours are optimised in terms of frequency, number of participants, integration at various levels and optimum value from the visit,” said Mrs Wamalwa.

During the workshop, Foreign Affairs Secretary Amina Mohammed said Malaysia, Rwanda, Singapore and China had written to her ministry registering their displeasure over large and ill-timed delegations visiting them without proper organisation.

“We discussed those issues at our retreat in Mombasa and there is clarity on what should be done and how we can facilitate them as a ministry so that they can maximise the benefits of those visits,” Ms Mohammed told Sunday Nation this week.

She said Baringo Members of County Assembly would be the first “beneficiaries” of the new rules as they prepared to visit South Korea.

The new guidelines further indicated that the devolved units must seek legal clearance from the Attorney-General before entering into deals on twinning of states and cities.

DUE DILIGENCE

“This should be supported with due diligence by the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,” said Mrs Wamalwa.

The county administration will also be required to closely scrutinise offers for twinning in order to evaluate the gains accruing from such arrangements.

“It is imperative that the process be undertaken through diplomatic channels and within constitutional parameters,” said Mrs Wamalwa.

Further, any agreement or MoU with a foreign government shall be subjected to the scrutiny of the Office of Attorney-General in his capacity as the chief legal adviser to the national and all county governments.

The director added that all engagements with external donors should be conducted in accordance with the foreign policy which is determined by the ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Treasury.

Still, all communications with other governments will be channelled through the Foreign Affairs ministry in line with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations.

“As a matter of courtesy, where a Kenyan mission/consulate exists, the delegation shall pay a courtesy call first,” writes Mrs Wamalwa.